Netanyahu, Liberman compromise could keep Arabs out of Knesset

PM, foreign minister decide to raise electoral threshold from 2% to 3.25%, which would make factions have minimum of 4 MKs.

Knesset 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Knesset 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman reached an agreement on the electoral threshold this week that could result in Arab factions remaining out of the next Knesset.
The current threshold of two percent enabled three Arab factions to enter the Knesset with three to four seats and Kadima to barely enter with two. Netanyahu and Liberman decided to raise the threshold to 3.25 percent, which would make the minimum number of MKs for a faction four.
Electoral reform bills sponsored by Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid that passed preliminary readings in the Knesset in July would have raised the threshold to four percent. But Hatnua and opposition factions asked Netanyahu to raise it by less and he persuaded Liberman to compromise.
The Knesset Law Committee, which made decisions on other aspects of the electoral reform bills over the past few months, is expected to start dealing with the electoral threshold next week. Yesh Atid MK Ronen Hoffman, who initiated the legislation, said his party would also agree to 3.25%, which would likely enable its approval.
Hadash MK Dov Khenin said Liberman accepted 3.25 percent to prevent parties supported by Arabs from entering the Knesset.
"Liberman is trying to expel Arabs from Israeli politics," Khenin said. "Those who say Arab parties can unite don't understand that there are socialist Arabs and Islamist Arabs. There have been anti-Semites who have said Jews all the same. I hope there aren't new anti-Semites who say all Arabs are the same."
Hoffman responded that calling the bill anti-Arab is nonsense. 
"It doesn't silence voices," Hoffman said. "It stablizes democracy and adds balance by preventing splinter parties from getting disproportional political power and extorting the prime minister."
The Law Committee has already decided to limit the number of ministers to 19 and deputy ministers to four. 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.
The final proposal is expected to be brought to a vote by the end of next month.