Jerusalem think tank urges Netanyahu to follow through on electoral reform promise

Israel Democracy Institute recommends making the leader of the largest party automatically prime minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a letter from the Israel Democracy Institute on Wednesday calling upon him to keep his campaign promise to reform the electoral system in order to promote governance and stability.
Officials at the Jerusalem-based research institute warned that in light of Netanyahu’s difficulty in forming a stable government, Israel could continue to vacillate from one political crisis to another without meaningful electoral reform.
The reforms recommended by IDI include making the leader of the largest party automatically prime minister, not requiring a prime minister to receive a vote of confidence from the Knesset when presenting his government, and canceling a law that automatically initiates elections if the state budget fails to pass.
IDI officials said such changes would lead to the formation of two broad political parties and reduce the bargaining power of small and medium-sized parties.
The changes are also intended to put pressure on the heads of the largest parties to build alliances before the election so coalition-building would start before the voters go to the polls.
“The emerging narrow coalition may very well be paralyzed and unable to address the fundamental challenges facing the Israeli economy and society,” warned IDI president Yohanan Plesner, who is a former MK. “The true test facing the prime minister and other political leaders is to form as wide a government as possible, whose first mission will be to implement necessary changes in Israel’s system of government.”
Hebrew University political science professor Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at IDI, acknowledged that it would be difficult to pass such electoral reforms with Shas and United Torah Judaism playing central roles in a narrow coalition, but he said the Likud, the Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and Kulanu could unite to pass them.
“Our role is to try to push this reform again and again,” Rahat said. “There is a window of opportunity now because people see that even though the election results were clear, the coalition-building has been very complicated. Our plan could minimize political horse-trading after the election. We think that will be better.”