Who's Leading Israel?
Oftentimes, when we talk about criticisms or praises Israel, we talk about "the government". The truth is, though, Israel has a lot of people and groups "in charge". So who are they? And what are each of them doing? From the most specific to the most general, let us explain who "the government" really is!
Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister
The Prime Minister of Israel is the Head of the Knesset and the most powerful leader in the government. They are also usually the leader of the political party that formed the coalition (majority) for the most recent election cycle, making them one of the 120 members of the Knesset.
Benjamin Netanyahu, commonly known as "Bibi", is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He served as PM for one term from 1996-1999 and was reelected in 2009, since then serving as PM of 6 consecutive Knessets. Bibi is the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history as well as the first to be born in a post-48 Israel. He is the head of the Likud party, a right-wing security-focused party established in 1973. He is a hard-line champion of counterterrorism efforts and generally hawkish on issues of settlements and negotiations with Palestinian leadership.
Reuven Rivlin, President
The President of Israel is elected for one seven-year term. They are notably not a member of Knesset, and any citizen of Israel is eligible to be a candidate. Unlike MKs, who are elected by the Israeli populace, the President is elected by a secret ballot in the Knesset. The President is charged with many bureaucratic duties, such as choosing a leader to form a coalition after an election cycle and signing all newly-passed laws. They are also able to commute sentences and are generally charged with overseeing the process of forming a government.
Reuven Rivlin, affectionately referred to as Ruvi, is the current President of Israel. He is a member of Likud, as is Netanyahu, though the pair do not always get along. Hawkish on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pro-one state, Rivlin still prioritizes minority rights as a cornerstone of his political ideology. He is often seen as a more moderate Likudnik as compared to his Prime Ministerial counterpart. Rivlin was elected in 2014.
There are approximately 30 ministerial portfolios available in the Israeli government. Any citizen of Israel is eligible to be a Minister, though many are Members of Knesset in parties that are coalition members. Ministerial roles vary, and some ministers are without portfolio, but generally a Minister is the head of a crucial part of running the country; examples include Economy, Agriculture and Rural Development, Transportation, Justice, Defense, and Culture and Sport. Ministers in the Cabinet are selected by the Prime Minister and are confirmed by a vote of confidence in the Knesset.
It's likely that when someone says that they agree or disagree with "the government", they're referring to the coalition. The coalition is the collection of parties that join together after an election cycle to form the government's majority. The coalition is usually made up of generally right- or left-wing parties, though there have been national unity governments that cross the aisle in the past. Currently, the coalition is made up of ministers from Likud, Blue and White, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Derech Eretz, Gesher, The Jewish Home, and 2 of the 3 members of the Labor party.
The Knesset is made up of 120 members and serves a term of 4 years, unless it is dissolved early (as seen in the most recent triad of elections). Different from US elections, Israelis vote for a political party rather than an individual candidate. The number of votes each party gets is then proportioned into a number of seats which together form the Knesset. The party nominated to form a government, usually the party with the most seats, then is tasked with forming the coalition, as noted above. The Knesset is the legislative body of Israel and is in charge of passing laws, budgeting, and caring for emergency situations.