Coalition parties vow to block changes to electoral system

"Press conference" seen as attempt to deter Lapid from reforms.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 17, 2012 02:56
2 minute read.
Yisrael Katz

yisrael katz 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Likud’s coalition partners mocked Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz for promising on Monday to change the electoral system ahead of the next election.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Katz last February to head a committee of ministers and MKs that would try to reach a consensus on changes in the system.

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Katz failed to reach agreement with the other parties on any specific change, and his committee has not met since May.

Nevertheless, Katz called a press conference in Tel Aviv Monday afternoon with representatives of the Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel, a pressure group that lobbies for changing the system.

Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser canceled his participation in the sparsely attended “press conference” that was set for a time when all political correspondents were at the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Katz said at the event he would push for raising the electoral threshold, limiting the number of ministers and deputy ministers, requiring a special majority for non-confidence motions, and electing part of the Knesset in direct, regional elections.

“There is no dispute about the need to change the electoral system,” Katz said. “It’s in the stage of implementation.

The goal of changing the system is not to help one party or another but to guarantee stability to all future governments. We must change the system to enable Israel to deal with the challenges ahead, make critical decisions, and implement them.”

MKs from the Likud’s coalition partners responded there is indeed a dispute about the need to make any changes.

The coalition agreement requires all changes to the political system to be made by consensus.

Shas and United Torah Judaism oppose raising the threshold and regional elections.

Israel Beiteinu wants a presidential system.

Independence faction chairwoman Einat Wilf, who speaks around the world about how Israel’s current system is the best, opposes making any changes at all.

Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), whose committee must approve any changes in the political system, said no decisions had been made on electoral reform and there was no consensus on the issue in the current coalition.

“[Katz] is just looking for headlines,” Rotem said. “If he brings it to my committee or his own it won’t pass.”

Officials on Katz’s committee speculated the press conference was called because electoral reform is one of the top issues promoted by two of Netanyahu’s opponents, journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

Lapid wrote on his Facebook wall on Monday that no current party would make any changes in the political system but his would.

“They had a thousand chances to change the system but they never did anything, because they are worried about their future coalition partners,” Lapid complained.

“There has to be a party that says changing the electoral system is a holy principle we won’t give up on in any condition, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Shas and UTJ MKs and Wilf said Monday they would block any effort by Katz to change the system.

“Despite the fact that Lapid says he will promote electoral reform, we have no reason to rush to that,” Wilf said. “Electoral reform is plain wrong, and Lapid saying it doesn’t make it right.”


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