Electoral reforms delineated in coalition agreements are a danger to democracy,
opposition MKs said during a conference at the Knesset Tuesday.
addition to opposition lawmakers like MKs Nachman Shai (Labor), Moshe Gafni
(UTJ), Dov Hanin (Hadash) and Michal Roisin (Meretz), Likud MK and former
Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) participated in the
Rivlin challenged the commitment in the coalition agreements
to increase the electoral threshold to four percent.
“There is a reason
the founding fathers decided that the electoral threshold should be low,” he
explained. “The logic was to allow as many opinion and stances in Israeli
society as possible to be represented in the Knesset, since we are so varied and
divided. The Knesset prevented civil wars in the past, because of its ability to
represent all of the opinions in the nation, and we must preserve
In the previous Knesset, Rivlin was an outspoken opponent of
coalition-sponsored legislation limiting freedom of expression and other rights,
which some in the Likud said cost him his position as Knesset
Since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not express support
for his reelection to the post, Rivlin denied two requests from the prime
minister to meet, and does not have a position in the current Knesset other than
“Netanyahu didn’t offer me another job, because he knew that he can’t
insult a person and then tempt him with other offers,” Rivlin told Israel Radio
The electoral reforms listed in coalition agreements with
Yesh Atid and the Bayit Yehudi include limiting the number of ministers to 18
and deputy ministers to four, and not allowing ministers without portfolio. In
addition, the deal calls for constructive no-confidence motions that require the
approval of at least 65 MKs and does not allow an MK to transfer his or her
election funding if he or she moves to another party.
agreements also call to pass Basic Law: Israel as the State of the Jewish
People, which makes Hebrew the official language and states that Israel has a
“We’re seeing clearly antidemocratic initiatives
at the start of the 19th Knesset,” Shai said. “One major example is the return
of a bill that shakes the foundations of Israel, the law declaring Israel a
Jewish and democratic state.”
According to Shai, the legislation shows
the coalition is power hungry and seeks to hurt minorities.
“Israel doesn’t need a law like this, which can only harm Israeli democracy and
Later, when Shai brought up the issue in the plenum,
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said she will not help along any attempt to disturb
the balance between Israel’s Jewishness and democracy.
Hanin and Gafni
focused on the electoral threshold, with the latter saying the opposition will
not allow the government to behave aggressively and against the norms of the
Knesset by passing electoral reforms quickly.
“Raising the electoral
threshold endangers democracy,” Hanin said. “Small parties do not threaten
stability. They do not have corrupt primaries. They do not bring people
lacking values and principles into politics. The opposite is
Earlier this week, Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center President
Uriel Reichman and Dr. Arik Carmon, president of the Israel Democracy Institute,
wrote a letter to Netanyahu and heads of opposition parties saying that the
electoral reforms mentioned in the coalition agreements are not sufficiently
Reichman and Carmon recommended passing legislation to
ensure the leader of the largest party become prime minister and allow regional
elections to the Knesset, as part of their complete outline for electoral
The first recommendation was part of Yesh Atid’s platform, but in
the previous Knesset, Netanyahu was prime minister even though Likud had one
fewer MK than Kadima.
Still, Carmon and Reichman say the change will lead
the political field to move to two major parties, and is a “complementary reform
to raising the electoral threshold, without which we expect there will be
continued fragmentation of the map of political parties, exaggerated power for
minor partners in the coalition and a harm in the governance ability of the
Partial adoption of electoral reforms will not allow
the government to deal with the current failures of the system and will not
improve governance capabilities or increase stability, they added.