Israeli government reform proposals

One of the provisions in the Israeli coalition agreement refers to political reform plans:

    1. The threshold is to be doubled from 2% to 4%.

    2. The number of Knesset members needed to dismiss a government will be increased from 61 to 70 (of 120).

I would not count a system of government under that second provision as “parliamentary”; I am not sure what it is, ((It has some features of Assembly-Independent, though it is a less drastic “de-parliamentarization” than that agreed in Papua New Guinea.)) or if there is anything comparable anywhere else.

(As for thresholds, we have discussed the theme extensively before.)

10 thoughts on “Israeli government reform proposals

  1. I saw a proposal somewhere (I think by one of the campaigns for changing the system) that called for a supermajority to dissolve the Knesset rather than one for removing the government – a much better idea with far more precedents.

    I hope that the fact that a supermajority-non-confidence provision in basic law will not need a supermajority to be repealed will keep the change relatively short in duration.


  2. That’s great that the electoral threshold is going to be increased to 4%. This is long overdue, but how is this going to impact Israeli Arab representation as the Arab parties are below the threshold, so will there only be 8 parties represented if the 2013 election had the 4% electoral threshold rule. Would the two Arab parties, and one Arab/Jewish party merged into one?

    It seems to me having a special majority to dissolve the Knesset is silly. If a government is a lame duck government; the government has to last the full time because nobody not even the opposition wants a snap election.

    What would the distribution of seats have been if this election had a 4% threshold? Sweden has a 4% threshold and currently right now, there is 8 parties represented in the Riksdag. What is the maximum numbers of parties that can be represented with a 4% threshold?

    Has anyone ever suggested a two-round list system of proportional representation? Where in the first round, all the parties that get pass the 4% threshold as an example participate in the 2nd round, and parties below the threshold don’t in the 2nd round? Would this eliminate the problems sometimes with PR with low thresholds that a lot of votes are wasted giving the larger parties huge seat bonuses?


  3. A 4% threshold would mean any party with seats in a 120 seat chamber would have a minimum of five seats. That would allow for 24 five seat parties if my math is correct. I honestly can’t see Israel or anyone ever being that fractured.

    I don’t know the exact proposal at hand, but there is a reasonable number of countries that allow parties representing ethnic or religious minorities to win seats in parliament with lesser or even no thresholds being applied to them. It is not inconceivable that Israel might adopt the same thing.


  4. 25 parties can each get exactly 4%.

    Honestly I don’t think it’s going to have that big of an impact. Kadima is pretty much dead as an independent movement at this point, and unless Tzipi Livni has some peacemaking magic in her, I would think HaTnua is as well. Recent polling suggests its highly unlikely she gets over 4% at the next election.

    As far as the “Arab parties,” it’s hard to judge. Their ideological differences are severe–Ra’am is Islamist, Balad is liberal Arab nationalist and anti-Zionist, while Hadash is more “non-Zionist” in their rhetoric and believes in Arab-Jewish partnership, while also being Communist. The three current blocs allying, or at least consolidating into two, is possible. Ta’al was allied with Hadash in the 2003 elections, and have been allied with Ra’am since; Hadash was in coalition with Balad in 1996. Balad has the softest support, and I think if the threshold made it look unlikely they’d get in, their supporters could move over to Ra’am and Hadash and push them both over the threshold. It’s also quite possible they all try to go it alone in the next elections, and that at least one of them fails to cross the threshold.

    It’s also possible that Arabs gravitate towards the left-wing Zionist parties. Meretz would seem the most likely on a policy basis, but its outreach outside of the educated Ashkenazi middle class has been pathetic; Labor would have the biggest potential in terms of resources, but becoming a party with lots of Arabs could drive the “I want peace and am not really racist but don’t generally associate with Arabs” part of them towards Lapid. The most recent polling has indicated that they’ve been hemorrhaging support to Lapid as is.

    A two round system would likely eliminate that issue, but you’d face the problem of not having everyone come back to vote, and the issue of a party falling dramatically in support between rounds. A preferential ballot would eliminate this issue.


  5. Just being picky, but 4% of 120 is 4.8. Unless Israel has started giving away fractional seats, a 4% threshold is a five seat minimum. Although I suppose if 25 parties all get exactly 4% of the vote, a few parties will end up drawing the short straw and only take four seats.


  6. As for waiving the threshold for parties representing groups that might be excluded by the 4% threshold, such as Arab citizens of the state, then what about also waiting it for Ethiopian or Indian Jews, for example?

    I think this is a question Israeli reformers would be advised not to open.


  7. Pingback: Fruits and Votes

  8. The idea of a super-majority to dissolve parliament (mentioned by JD at #1) has been discussed in Israel for some time.

    In fact, coincidentally, it was being debated in the UK in May, 2010, at almost precisely the moment that I travelled from that country to Israel and joined a political-reform committee of academics and others that was discussing this idea there.

    So, naturally, there is a F&V thread devoted to the topic. (Also, see a follow-up on the UK.)


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