Israel: Competing governance bills from within the coalition

Members from two of the coalition partners in the Israeli government have submitted bills to reform various aspects of governance.

The first, from Yisrael Beiteinu, would keep the current requirement for an absolute majority (61/120) to remove a government via a vote of no-confidence, but not allow such a motion even to be debated until signed by 61 MKs.

The second, from Yesh Atid, would require 65 votes to remove a government. (It is not clear what the minimum number of signers would be for the motion to go to the Knesset agenda.)

Both bills propose raising the electoral threshold to 4% (from 2%), and mandating a maximum size of the cabinet, including limits on deputy ministers.

In support of the Yesh Atid bill, sponsor Ronen Hoffman says, “The adoption of the procedure means a government can only be overthrown once a realistic, serious alternative is in place.”

Actually, this could be accomplished without requiring more than 50%+1 votes. Why not a constructive vote of no-confidence, whereby a government can be removed only if a majority (61/120) of legislators votes affirmatively for an alternative prime minister (or full cabinet)?*

If forced to choose between these two options, I would actually take the Yisrael Beiteinu one. However, while raising the minimum number of sponsors of a no-confidence motion seems sensible, raising it all the way to 50%+1 is unnecessary. I do not know what the highest currently used in any parliamentary democracy is, but I think more on the order of 25%.** Speaking of parliamentary systems, if it takes more than 50%+1 to remove a government, the system fails to meet the basic criterion of such a system: the accountability of government to parliament–the majority of parliament.

* Israel adopted a weak form of constructive vote about a decade ago, but a motion must only name a candidate to be PM, not actually invest a new PM, as is the case with full constructive votes in Germany, Spain, and elsewhere.

** The linked news item says that currently, “any faction” may propose a motion, which is debated. That’s too low a requirement!

5 thoughts on “Israel: Competing governance bills from within the coalition

  1. MSS, from what I’ve read, the bills you refer to also include the ‘constructive’ element – ie: they have to propose an alternative PM.


    • JD, if it’s fully constructive, that is good. Well, I don’t think it’s a good feature in the super-majority proposal, but it is a good one in bill requiring 61 votes. It would be good to verify, however, whether the vote removing the sitting government would elect the new PM instead of simply nominate one, who then has to go through the formation and investiture process. Maybe you mean that it would, but it’s not clear to me.

      Too bad the news item did not mention that, but I suppose that’s more institutional details than most reporters can stomach.


  2. Does Israel have problems with the Knesset abusing votes of no confidence? Do most parliamentary democracies have problems with minor parties misusing votes of no confidence? Is this why Papua New Guinea has a bizarre requirement that in the first few years of the government term, it is immune from votes of no confidence. Is a constructive vote of no confidence superfluous or can it be misused?

    The electoral threshold should be increased to 4% without a doubt.


  3. In Spain, the motion has to be signed by at least 10% of members of the Lower Chamber in order to be discussed. These members can only sign one of these motions every roughly six months. Since 1978 we have had two votes of no-confidence if I recall correctly (one in 1980 of the Socialist Party against Suarez; one in the late 1980s of the Conservative Party against Gonzalez). Both of them failed


  4. The question of whether Israel has problems with too many votes of confidence depends on what we mean by problem. There are a lot of no-confidence motions, that’s for sure. I am not sure one has ever passed (although governments or Knessets have certainly ended early without a formal loss of confidence).

    Somewhere between Israel and Spain, there must be a happy medium. What is Malta’s experience?

    (The last was an attempt at a little geographical humor. I could have used Italy, but “happy medium” seemed quite inappropriate when referencing no-confidenve votes in that case.)


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