Yuli Edelstein

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Yuli Edelstein
יולי אדלשטיין - תמונת פרופיל.jpg
Ministerial roles
1996–1999Minister of Immigrant Absorption
2009–2013Minister of Information & Diaspora
2020–2021Minister of Health
Faction represented in the Knesset
1996–2003Yisrael BaAliyah
Other roles
2013–2020Speaker of the Knesset
Personal details
Yulian Yur'evich Edelshtein
(Юлиан Юрьевич Эдельштейн}

(1958-08-05) 5 August 1958 (age 64)
Chernivtsi, Soviet Union
Spouse(s)Tatiana Freivort (d. 2014)
Irina Nevzlin
Residence(s)Neve Daniel, West Bank
EducationMoscow Pedagogical Institute (expelled)

Yuli-Yoel Edelstein (Hebrew: יולי יואל אדלשטיין, Russian: Юлий Йоэль Эдельштейн, born 5 August 1958) is an Israeli politician who served as Minister of Health from 2020 to 2021. One of the most prominent refuseniks in the Soviet Union, he was the 16th Speaker of the Knesset from 2013 until his resignation on 25 March 2020.[1]

Early life

Edelstein's prison release record from the Moscow MVD, 1987

Yuli Edelstein was born in Chernivtsi in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine) to a Jewish family. His mother, Anita Edelstein, was Jewish, while his father, Yuri Edelstein, is the son of a Jewish father and Christian mother. Both converted to Christianity, and Yuri is now a Russian Orthodox priest in Karabanovo of Kostroma Oblast named Father Georgy.[2][3] While his parents taught at universities in the countryside, Edelstein was raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather had taught himself Hebrew at the age of 70 and used to listen to the Voice of Israel on a shortwave radio. When Edelstein's grandfather died, Yuli began to study Hebrew and read books such as Exodus by Leon Uris.[4]

In 1977, during his second year of university, Edelstein applied for an exit visa to emigrate to Israel. Turned down, he began to associate with a small group of Hebrew teachers who held classes in their apartments.[4] One of Edelstein's students was refusenik Alexander Smukler.[5] In 1979, alongside Ephraim Kholmianski and Yuri Koroshovsky, Edelstein founded an underground organization, known as the 'City Project', with the intent of training Hebrew teachers and distributing Hebrew learning materials.[6] That year, he was expelled from university and suffered harassment by the KGB and local police. During this time, he found odd jobs as a street cleaner, security guard, and more.[4]

In 1984, he and other Hebrew teachers were arrested on fabricated charges, Edelstein himself being charged with possession of drugs,[7][8][9][10][11][12] and sentenced to three years. He was then sent to Siberian penal colonies and did hard labor, first in Buryatia and then in Novosibirsk. He broke several bones after falling from a construction tower. He was due to be transferred back to Buryatia, but his wife, Tanya, threatened to go on hunger strike if he was returned there.[13]

Edelstein was released in May 1987,[13] on the eve of Israeli Independence Day, the next to last of the refuseniks to be freed.[4] He then emigrated to Israel, moving to the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut. He did his national service in the Israel Defense Forces, attaining the rank of Corporal.[14]

Political career

Early career

Edelstein as Information Minister, briefing reporters at site of Hamas rocket attack, 2012

Initially a member of the National Religious Party and a vice-president of the Zionist Forum, Edelstein founded the Yisrael BaAliyah party together with fellow Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky. He was elected to the Knesset in 1996, and was appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption in Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-led government.[4] The long-term project of subsidizing housing for elderly migrants prepared by the ministry under his supervision and cooperation with the Ministry of Construction raised controversy over expenditures overrun incurred by the project. Edelstein claimed that the investigative commission found such claims unsubstantiated.[15] He was re-elected in 1999, and was appointed Deputy Immigrant Absorption Minister by Ariel Sharon in 2001.[16]

He retained his seat in the 2003 elections, shortly after which Yisrael BaAliyah merged into Likud. Although Edelstein lost his seat in the 2006 elections, in which Likud was reduced to 12 seats (Edelstein was 14th on the party's list), he re-entered the Knesset as a replacement for Dan Naveh in February 2007. He retained his seat in the 2009 elections after being placed twelfth on the party's list, and was appointed Minister of Information and Diaspora in the Netanyahu government.[17] He was subsequently re-elected in 2013 after being placed on the eighteenth spot of the Likud Yisrael Beiteinu list.[18]

Speaker of the Knesset

Following the 2013 elections, Edelstein was nominated by Likud Yisrael Beitenu to replace then Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin. His nomination was approved by all members of the party's parliamentary caucus excluding Rivlin, who chose to abstain.[19] It was then approved by the Knesset, with 96 members voting in favor and 8 abstaining.[20] Edelstein was sworn in as speaker on 14 March.[21] Edelstein was elected to the third place on the Likud list ahead of the 2015 election. He was subsequently re-elected to the Knesset and then as Speaker, with 103 Members of the Knesset voting in favor and 7 abstaining.[22] During his tenure as speaker, Edelstein supported the Nation-State Bill.[23] Ahead of the April 2019 election, Edelstein was elected to the second place on the Likud list.[24] After the election, he was re-elected as Speaker, with 101 MKs voting in favor and 4 abstaining.[25]

Following the 2020 election, a bloc led by Netanyahu and Benny Gantz agreed to replace Edelstein as speaker of the Knesset. Despite this he refused to convene the plenary to vote on his replacement. The Movement for Quality Government in Israel appealed to the Supreme Court, which ordered Edelstein to convene the Knesset. on 25 march, Edelstein resigned as speaker to prevent a constitutional crisis.[26] On March 26, Gantz was elected and sworn in as the new Knesset Speaker.[27]

After speakership

Following the establishment of the Thirty-fifth government, Edelstein was sworn in as Minister of Health on 17 May 2020, and remained as minister until the Thirty-sixth government was sworn in on 13 June 2021.[16] On 11 October, he announced his intention to challenge Netanyahu for the Leadership of the Likud in the next leadership election.[28] Ahead of the 2022 election, he withdrew from the race,[29] leading to its cancellation due to a lack of candidates.[30] In primaries for the party list held in August, Edelstein was placed on the 18th place on the Likud list.[31]


In December 2014, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Edelstein warned world leaders against creating a Palestinian state that he thought would go to war with Israel.[32]

In the same interview, Edelstein stated that he believes in Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. In 2014, he was one of several Members of the Knesset (MK) who submitted complaints against Arab-Israeli Haneen Zoabi for supporting Hamas, which led to her six-month suspension. "I have been in the Knesset for almost 19 years," Edelstein said. "I remember Arab MKs joining me at the March of the Living and proposing social-oriented legislation with me. That is definitely not Zoabi. I believe in coexistence and fighting against those who harm it and I think that Zoabi’s words and actions hurt coexistence. People hear her and think all Arabs must hate us and want to kill us. That is unhealthy, and we have to put an end to it.”

Edelstein criticized U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for saying that U.S. military aid to Israel should instead be diverted toward aid to Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Edelstein said that Sanders should 'stop talking nonsense'.[33]

Personal life

After leaving Alon Shvut, Edelstein moved to Neve Daniel, another settlement in the West Bank. He was married to Tatiana (Tanya) Edelstein, who was a Zionist activist, for 33 years. They met in the Soviet Union when she attended a Hebrew class he was teaching. After immigrating to Israel, she worked as a civil engineer at the Civil Aviation Authority. Tanya and Yuli Edelstein had two children together. In 2014, Tanya died of cancer at the age of 63.[34]

In June 2016, Edelstein married Irina Nevzlin, chair of the board of directors of The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot and President of the NADAV Foundation.


  1. ^ Wootliff, Raoul. "In bombshell, Yuli Edelstein resigns to avoid calling vote on new speaker". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  2. ^ Sergei L. Loiko (22 April 2012). "Russian Orthodox Church is in spiritual crisis, critics say". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Russian priest visits son: Israel's absorption minister". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 13 November 1997. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Deborah Sontag (21 June 1999). "From Siberia to Israeli Cabinet (No, he's not Sharansky)". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  5. ^ Smukler, Alexander (2009). "Interview With the President" (PDF). National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry: Annual Report. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 January 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2020. I continued with my course on civil engineering and construction during the day, and from 1980 onward, I studied Hebrew with Yuli Edelstein in the evening, behind closed doors.
  6. ^ "עברית במחתרת" [Underground Hebrew]. Davar (in Hebrew). 3 February 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  7. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica Year Book. 1986. p.366
  8. ^ "When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry". By Gal Beckerman. Chapter 12
  9. ^ Philip Spiegel. "Triumph over tyranny: the heroic campaigns that saved 2,000,000 Soviet Jews". p. 157
  10. ^ Maxim Shrayer. Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story. p.158
  11. ^ The Listener. Volume 113. p.43. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1985.
  12. ^ The Prosecution of Demonstrators Outside the Soviet Embassy: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-ninth Congress, Second Session, on Citizens Exercising Their Constitutionally Protected Rights, Protesting the Brutal Treating of Human Beings in Faraway Lands, 15 May 1986. p.30
  13. ^ a b Dina Goldman. "Yuli Edelstein". The Jewish Agency for Israel. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  14. ^ Particulars Knesset
  15. ^ Интервью Эдельштейна газете NEWSru.co.il:По словам депутата Эдельштейна, разговоры о перерасходе государственных средств при реализации данного проекта продолжаются многие годы, но две проверяющие комиссии не поддержали эти утверждения, хотя эти комиссии создавались не сторонниками «Микбацей диюр».
  16. ^ a b "חבר הכנסת יולי יואל אדלשטיין" [Member of the Knesset Yuli Yoel Edelstein]. Knesset. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  17. ^ "Netanyahu sworn in as Israel's prime minister". Haaretz. 1 April 2009. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  18. ^ Yahav, Telem (6 December 2012). "כל הרשימות הוגשו: בחירות 2013 יוצאות לדרך" [All lists have been submitted: 2013 election begins]. Ynet (in Hebrew). Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  19. ^ Alon, Gidon (15 March 2013). "יולי אדלשטיין: ממסורב עלייה ליו"ר" [Yuli Edelstein: from refusenik to speaker]. www.israelhayom.co.il. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  20. ^ "ריבלין: "רק 3 לא רצו בי - ליברמן, נתניהו, והאדם השלישי"" [Rivlin: "Only 3 didn't want me - Liberman, Netanyahu, and a third person"]. וואלה! (in Hebrew). 28 March 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  21. ^ "יולי אדלשטיין" [Yuli Edelstein]. Maariv. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  22. ^ Nir, Tomer (31 March 2015). "כצפוי: יולי אדלשטיין נבחר ליו"ר הכנסת ה-20" [As Expected: Yuli Edelstein elected speaker of the 20th Knesset]. Srugim (in Hebrew). Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  23. ^ Liss, Yehonatan; Landau, Noa (18 July 2018). "בתום דיון לילי ארוך: מליאת הכנסת אישרה את חוק הלאום" [After a lengthy night-time discussion: the Knesset Plenum has approved the Nation-State law]. Haaretz (in Hebrew). Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  24. ^ Klein, Yehonatan (6 February 2019). "רשימת הליכוד לכנסת: אדלשטיין ראשון, חזן בחוץ" [The Likud's Knesset List: Edelstein is first, Hazan is out]. כיפה (in Hebrew). Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  25. ^ Twizer, Inbar (30 April 2019). "יולי אדלשטיין נבחר ליו"ר הכנסת בפעם השלישית" [Yuli Edelstein elected Knesset Speaker for a third time]. Ynet (in Hebrew). Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  26. ^ Wootliff, Raoul. "In bombshell, Yuli Edelstein resigns to avoid calling vote on new speaker". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  27. ^ Wootliff, Raoul. "Elected Knesset speaker by right wing, Gantz heads for government with Netanyahu". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  28. ^ Segal, Amit (11 October 2021). "יולי אדלשטיין בראיון בלעדי: "אתמודד מול נתניהו, איתו לא..." [Yuli Edelstein in Exclusive Interview: "I will run against Netanyahu, not with him"]. N12. Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  29. ^ Azulai, Moran (30 June 2022). "אדלשטיין לא יתמודד מול נתניהו על ראשות הליכוד: "זה הזמן להיות מלוכדים"" [Edelstein will not run against Netanyahu for Likud leadership: "It's time to be united"]. Ynet (in Hebrew). Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  30. ^ Ettinger, Amit (19 July 2022). "סופית: הפריימריז בליכוד ייערכו ב-10 באוגוסט" [Final: Likud Primaries to be held 10 August]. www.israelhayom.co.il. Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  31. ^ Shalev, Tal (11 August 2022). "תוצאות הפריימריז בליכוד: לוין במקום הראשון, ישראל כץ ואדלשטיין מחוץ לעשירייה הפותחת" [Results of Likud Primaries: Levin in first place, Israel Katz and Edelstein outside the top ten]. וואלה! (in Hebrew). Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  32. ^ Gil Hoffman; Lahav Harkov (29 December 2014). "Edelstein: Wrong to create Palestinian state Israel would have to attack". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  33. ^ Allison Kaplan Sommer (29 October 2019). "Israel's Knesset Speaker to Bernie Sanders: 'Stop Talking Nonsense'". Haaretz. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  34. ^ Lazar Berman (24 January 2014). "Tanya Edelstein, wife of Knesset speaker, dies at 63". Times of Israel. Retrieved 14 March 2015.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by Speaker of the Knesset
Benny Gantz