Lieberman, PM agree to push series of electoral reforms

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman decided on a series of changes to the nation's electoral system in a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Under the deal, Kadima and Israel Beiteinu will advance five changes: • The prime minister will be the leader of the largest party in the Knesset, without requiring nomination by the president. • The electoral threshold will be raised from 2 percent to 2.5%. • The adoption of the "Norwegian law," whereby MKs who are appointed as ministers will automatically quit the Knesset but return if they resign from the cabinet; • The Knesset will be dispersed automatically if the budget does not pass by December 31 instead of the current March 1. • No-confidence motions cannot be raised without the support of 61 MKs for an alternative candidate for prime minister. Knesset Law Committee Chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson of Kadima already passed the Norwegian law in February and the rise in the threshold in July in his committee. The proposal to make the leader of the largest party prime minister automatically was defeated in the panel in July. The other two proposals have already been discussed in the committee and were expected to be brought to a vote in October. Kadima officials accused Lieberman of trying to take credit for steps already made by Kadima. They said Olmert was trying to placate Lieberman's anger over diplomatic moves with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas by selling him electoral reform proposals that would have passed even without Lieberman's support. Olmert and Lieberman also decided in the meeting to send Israel Beiteinu MK Yisrael Hasson to speak to the Palestinians, and to set red lines for Israeli concessions. Lieberman's spokeswoman responded to the allegations by saying that Israel Beiteinu had been working on changing the electoral system since 1999. "Everything on our agenda is eventually adopted by other parties," she said. Ben-Sasson, who was present at the Olmert-Lieberman meeting, said it was a major accomplishment that Lieberman had decided to give up his call for a presidential system of government and instead support the decisions advanced by a consensus of the Knesset. "Lieberman realized what is possible and what is not," Ben-Sasson said. "He made a 180-degree turn and has come a long way. This will give a big boost to our effort to pass changes in the electoral system in the committee and in the plenum in October."