Beiteinu's exit deals blow to prospects for electoral reform

It remains unclear how they will proceed on their planned electoral reforms now that they are outside the coalition.

Avigdor Lieberman 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Avigdor Lieberman 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
When Israel Beiteinu joined the coalition last October, party chairman Avigdor Lieberman announced that his first and foremost goal was to establish a new system of government. It was ironic, therefore, that his departure from the government this week sounded the death knoll on the ever-sinking ship of electoral reform that was once optimistically set to pass by spring 2008. While the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson continued to work on a constitution that would incorporate several elements of electoral reform, the highly-publicized plans that were announced by Israel Beiteinu, Kadima, and Labor at the start of the 17th Knesset have fallen by the wayside in recent months, said MKs. "Each time something big comes along, the people in this country feel a need to drop everything else. It's like the entire Knesset has a one-track mind, only capable of running to the television with one fad agenda after another," said a senior Knesset official Thursday. That official, who asked to remain anonymous due to the work he does with the Law and Constitution Committee, estimated that he has been working on various proposals for electoral reform for more than a decade. "Their have been wars, peace processes and then more wars. Each time, the entire reform process falls by the wayside," said the official. Ben-Sasson is currently working on a series of reforms including a bill to adapt the so-called Norwegian Law, which would make ministers and deputy ministers quit the Knesset automatically upon their appointment and return if they leave their post; a bill to amend the minimum threshold required for parties that are entering the Knesset; and a bill that would set a fixed number of cabinet members. Each member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition currently object to at least one of those reforms, making it highly unlikely that they will succeed in passing through a plenum vote. The Shas and Gil Pensioners Parties are strongly opposed to raising the minimum threshold for entering the Knesset, since both of them could be threatened by it. Labor, meanwhile, has tabled its own version of the Norwegian Law, while various MKs within Labor have argued that Israel needs to elect part of its Knesset members through local representation. MKs Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) and Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) have joined forces to push for the adoption of the German political system, whereby half the 120-member parliament is elected by the current Israeli system of proportional representation of political parties and half by direct regional elections. Ben-Sasson favors a system by which 30 MKs are elected regionally. As for Israel Beiteinu, it remained unclear how they would proceed on their planned electoral reforms now that they are outside the coalition. In July, their bill to revert to a system of separate political and prime ministerial voting failed to pass a majority in the plenum. While some party MKs have suggested that they will present different versions of that bill, it is unlikely that any party outside of Israel Beiteinu will support the reforms.