Israel threshold bill advances

The Israeli Knesset constitution committee has cleared the “governability bill” and sent it on to the full chamber. If passed, it would raise the threshold for representation from its current 2% of the vote to 3.25%.

Haaretz notes:

This change will keep parties with fewer than four seats out of the Knesset. Thus the three Arab parties, each of usually wins three to four seats in election, would have to merge to ensure that they get in.

The bill also makes other changes in the system of government, including restricting the cabinet to 18 ministers and four deputy ministers and barring the appointment of ministers without portfolio.

Further, the Haaretz item (which unfortunately you probably have to be a subscriber to access) indicates the intra-coalition logrolling that went into advancing the bill to this stage:

Unusually, the final committee vote on the governability bill coincided with votes on key sections of the new conscription bill in the Shaked Committee. Moreover, in both committees, the coalition had a majority of only one Knesset member. The Habayit Hayehudi party therefore exploited the situation to try to ensure that the conscription bill would meet its approval: Its two MKs on the Constitution Committee, Orit Strock and Shuli Moalem, threatened not to vote for the governability bill if the party’s demands on the conscription bill weren’t met.

Haaretz claims, without detail, that the maneuver did not secure any change of substance. Nonetheless, the episode underscores the narrowness of majorities under the current government.

The change to the threshold is not a minor matter, yet it is being pushed through without consensus.

7 thoughts on “Israel threshold bill advances

  1. Would increasing the threshold improve governability in Israel? It seems like an odd number 3.25% threshold, but it is better than 2%? I thought it was going to be 4%, but it just a compromise and another stepping stone toward another future increase? I guess we will not know until the next election.

  2. From Ha’aretz:
    “Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid’s original [manifesto promise] was 6%, which, in his speech on election night was aimed specifically at the Arab parties, which, in his words, “are busy from morning to evening with one thing only: slandering the State of Israel. Only one thing they do not do: taking care of the real problems of the Arab community”.

    …Lapid’s proposal did not make its way to the Constitution Committee, which drafted the law. Instead, Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman asked for a 4% threshold. A source involved in the contacts between the party leaders reported that the final threshold was decided as a compromise with Hatnu’a leader Tzipi Livni, whose party may be hit by the change. “Liberman demanded 4%, Livni no more than 3%. The decision was meant to allow her [party] to vote for the bill.

    The opposition put forward 150 objections to the bill. Theoretically, the debate could last for three whole weeks. In practice, it will last less than a day. Other provisions of the [‘Governability’] bill include that the next government will have no more than 18 ministers, and bans non-portfolio ministerships. The PM will only be able to add parties to his government with the agreement of 70 MKs. The government will have 100 days to get a new budget approved instead of the current 45.”
    (translated by me).

  3. Thanks, JD. This is an odd provision: “The PM will only be able to add parties to his government with the agreement of 70 MKs.” I have never heard of anything like that elsewhere (or in Israel) before.

    • I thought that was strange myself. You know what, i probably misinterpreted it. Literally, it says something like “increase the composition of his government” – I now think it actually means add ministers, not parties.

  4. Yes, JD, the official English press release implies that the provision requiring 70 votes concerns increasing the size of the cabinet, not adding parties.

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