Prime Ministers of Israel

Instructor: Jason Waguespack

Jason has taught Political Science courses for college. He has a doctorate in Political Science.

This lesson will introduce you to the current prime minister of Israel, as well as provide a list of the prime ministers that have served to date. Learn about key achievements and how they have shaped world affairs.

The Leader of Israel

The nation of Israel was created in the aftermath of World War II as a place where the world's Jews could have a homeland of their own. Since its founding, Israel has been engaged in long conflicts with surrounding Arab populations and militant terrorist groups, which has made the leader of Israel an important world leader.

This brings us to the Prime Minister of Israel, a position similar to the American president. Like the American president, the Israeli prime minister is the head of government. While there is an Israeli president, that position is largely ceremonial, since much of the real power resides with the prime minister.

Choosing a Prime Minister

The Knesset During Address of Prime Minister
Knesset In Session

The citizens of Israel do not directly vote for the prime minister. Israel has a parliamentary system of government, meaning its people vote for a parliament that selects the prime minister. But in Israel, the public doesn't vote on individual candidates. Instead, the people vote for a political party.

Seats in the Israeli legislative body, called the Knesset, (pronounced 'ka-NESS-ette') are awarded based on the percentage of the vote the party received. If a party wins the majority of Knesset seats, they would have enough votes to elect a prime minister, but no one party has ever won enough seats as of 2016. This means that a coalition of political parties must come together to agree on a prime minister.

List of Prime Ministers

In total, Israel has had eighteen prime ministers, five of whom have served non-consecutive terms. That means thirteen people have served as prime minister (PM).

List of Prime Ministers Years Served Milestones
1. David Ben-Gurion 1949-1954 1st Israeli Prime Minister, longest serving
2. Moshe Sharett 1954-1955
3. David Ben-Gurion 1955-1963
4. Levi Eshkol 1963-1969 1st PM to die in office
5. Yigal Allon 1969 Interim PM
6. Golda Meir 1969-1974 1st female PM
7. Yitzhak Rabin 1974-1977
8. Menachem Begin 1977-1983 1st non-Socialist PM
9. Yitzhak Shamir 1983-1984
10. Shimon Peres 1984-1986
11. Yitzhak Shamir 1986-1992
12. Yitzhak Rabin 1992-1995 1st and only PM assassinated
13. Shimon Peres 1995-1996
14. Benjamin Netanyahu 1996-1999 1st PM born since nation of Israel's founding, youngest PM elected
15. Ehud Barak 1999-2001
16. Ariel Sharon 2005-2006
17. Ehud Olmert 2006-2009
18. Benjamin Netanyahu 2009- Current PM

The Importance of the Israeli Prime Minister

Golda Meir at the White House
golda meir

The Israeli Prime Minister has been one of the world's most visible leaders, not just because the PM leads the world's sole Jewish state, but because Israel is encircled by predominantly Arab countries that have had historical conflicts with the Israelis.

In fact, the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, waged a war with surrounding Arab nations in 1949, the first year of Israel's existence. Israel is also known for having one of the first female heads of government when Golda Meir became PM in 1969. Meir also presided over Israel during the Yom Kippur War when Egypt and Syria launched attacks. In 1979, Menachem Begin signed a historic peace treaty with Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli PM Menachem Begin
begin and sadat

Israel and the Palestinians

Yitzhak Rabin Shakes Hands With Yasser Arafat
rabin

The Palestinians live in Israel in both the Gaza Strip near Egypt and on the West Bank of the Jordan River. Israel's policy regarding them has been the focal point for many prime ministers. In 1994, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin negotiated a peace treaty called the Oslo Accords with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

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