Israel Electoral Reform

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks during consultations with party representatives on who might form the next coalition government, at the President's residence in Jerusalem, Monday, April 5, 2021. (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks during consultations with party representatives on who might form the next coalition government, at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, Monday, April 5, 2021. (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP)

Tonight an amazing Progressive religious service took place at the egalitarian section of the Kotel for Rabbi Gilad Kariv, to farewell him as President of the IMPJ. The event took place just prior to him being sworn in as a Member of the Knesset. He is the first Progressive Rabbi to be elected as an MK. The moving service ended with Tfilat HaDerech (the Traveler’s Prayer) and the blessing of gratitude Shehecheyanu.

Today was also the day that President Reuven Rivlin invited Bibi Netanyahu to form a coalition to govern Israel after four inconclusive elections taking place over the last two years. Netanyahu has 28 days to form Israel’s next government, with a possible fourteen day extension. However, the President of Israel claimed that no candidate had a real chance of forming a new government, but he chose Netanyahu because he had the most endorsements. The President was forced to make this decision while the PM, Bibi Netanyahu was in court facing trial on corruption charges.

This bizarre situation, in my view, points to a need for reform of the electoral system in Israel, a matter that is being discussed across the board. A number of possible changes have been put forward. One is to increase the percentage of votes that a party would need to achieve to gain seats in the Knesset.

If the percentage was increased it would lead to fewer small parties holding seats and able to manipulate the more successful larger parties, as currently occurs. Another idea is to introduce electorates, as in Australia, so Knesset members as individuals and not just party members, would be answerable to the community who voted for them. The problem is that the Knesset would need to pass legislation to change the electoral system and its not likely happen if members would lose their seats.

While there have been changes to the electoral threshold over time, they have only changed by small increments to the now 3.25 percent of total votes for a party to enter the Knesset. European countries with the same electoral system have thresholds in the 5 to 10 percent range.

While the current system was developed initially to support many parties, able to represent migrants from a large number of different countries, perhaps it is time to change to a system that meets the needs of a more stable demographic Israel.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey
ARZA AUSTRALIA President