Knesset building 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Efforts to initiate direct, regional elections for half the Knesset appeared to
die in June 2008 when Shas vetoed a bill that was sponsored by senior
legislators in Kadima, Likud and Labor.
In unprecedented cooperation
between the three largest parties of the time, every minister except one on the
Ministerial Committee on Legislation backed the bill, including the committee
Chairman, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.
But Shas Minister Meshulam
Nahari’s one vote against it was enough to kill the bill, because any coalition
partner could block bills that change a Basic Law, the legislation that forms
the cornerstone of an eventual constitution.
Four years later, efforts to
enact regional elections have been revived. And over the past two weeks have
gained new momentum.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin came out strongly in
favor of electing part of the Knesset from regional constituencies at a Union of
Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI) conference at the Knesset on
“Regional elections are the right way to fix the Knesset without
destroying it,” Rivlin told a room full of mayors and city
“They would bring balance between local and national
government. A Knesset with a regional element would be more stable, more
socio-economically sensitive, and would ensure that infrastructure projects and
public services would not be pushed aside by diplomatic-security
Journalist Yair Lapid said changing the political system would
be a key issue for his new party. Kadima leadership candidate Shaul Mofaz
endorsed regional elections after his competition, incumbent Tzipi Livni, did
not push the issue since taking over the helm of the party from Ehud
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan kicked off the new Yesh Sikui
movement that calls for direct, regional elections for half the Knesset last
Wednesday at its founding conference in Tel Aviv.
On Tuesday, the
movement received a boost when it was joined by ULAI head Shlomo Bohbut and
National Union of Israeli students head Itzik Shmuli.
elections are still extremely unlikely to be enacted in the current Knesset due
to the continued opposition of Shas and the control over the Knesset Law
Committee by a fierce opponent of regional elections, Israel Beiteinu MK David
But if momentum continues, it is looking increasingly likely that
enacting direct, regional elections for half the Knesset could be near the top
of the agenda of the next government.
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