The smallest faction in the next Knesset will have at least four MKs, up from the current two, after the Knesset passed the government’s electoral reform legislation into law Tuesday in votes that were boycotted by the opposition.
The new law raised the electoral threshold from 2 to 3.25 percent, which could prevent the three Arab factions from entering the next Knesset if they do not unite. Balad leader Jamal Zehalka and UAL-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi vowed to bring about a united Arab list but Hadash MKs expressed hesitation.
The law also limits the number of ministers to 19, none of whom will be ministers- without-portfolio, and there will be no more than four deputy ministers. But due to a loophole in the bill, a coalition with 70 MKs could vote to add additional ministers.
Ministers will only be in charge of one ministry. Instead of weekly motions of no-confidence in the government, they will be monthly and the prime minister will have to be present.
Factions will continue to be able to be split if a third of its MKs want to leave.
But a law that required only seven MKs to split factions with more than 21 legislators will be repealed.
Following the bill’s passage by a 67-0 vote, the leaders of Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu, which sponsored the legislation, gave victory speeches. Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid said that from now on, the public will get governments that can govern and will be less wasteful.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said he now expects the coalition to last for four years and the government to be able to get things done. He rejected charges from the opposition that a debate in the Knesset was stifled.
“What we have seen here the last 24 hours is a display of hypocrisy and whining,” Liberman said. “Every time I heard [Labor Party leader Isaac] Herzog, I had to reach for a tissue to wipe away my tears. He’s always crying and whining and the hypocrisy here screams to the heavens since those same people who are now fearful over the fate of Israeli democracy themselves submitted bills raising the minimum threshold.”
Liberman denounced the opposition as “terrorists, post-Zionists, anti-Zionists, haredim and crybabies.”
Herzog responded that Liberman had “built his career on hatred and campaigns of fear,” noting a 2010 incident in which Liberman had his then-deputy Danny Ayalon sit the Turkish ambassador down for a scolding.
Herzog said Liberman could not put the opposition on a low chair.
Zehalka said that if Liberman cannot handle Arabs in the Knesset, he should leave the parliament, and if he did not want Arabs in Israel, he should leave the country.
“We were here before him and we will be here after him,” Zehalka said. “We were here before the racists and the racism and we will be here after them.”