Israel’s upcoming election will be the first conducted under the requirement that a party must win a minimum of four seats—the previous minimum was 2.4—to gain representation in the Knesset. Among its deleterious consequences, writes Evelyn Gordon, the change will prevent the formation of a moderate Arab party—despite the fact that opinion polls show Israeli Arabs to be overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the current parties, which are mouthpieces for the pro-Palestinian cause and have categorically refused to join any governing coalition:
Israel has an obvious interest in facilitating the growth of new Arab parties that would reflect [most Arab Israelis’] priorities. Arabs’ attitudes toward the state would presumably improve if their representatives could join the cabinet and produce concrete benefits for their community instead of being condemned by their own anti-Israel rhetoric to shout empty slogans eternally from the opposition benches. And Jewish attitudes toward the Arab minority would presumably improve if Arab MKs stopped attacking Israel night and day and instead started working for their constituents’ welfare.
Encouragingly, such parties even exist already, spurred by similar poll findings in 2012. In 2013, none of them got in, but this year, their prospects should have been better. . . . Instead, the higher electoral threshold has made it impossible.
Likewise, the new law has allowed the extreme-right politician Baruch Marzel to improve his chances by allying with Eli Yishai, former head of the Mizraḥi Shas party.
Israel doesn’t benefit from having anti-Arab extremists like [Baruch] Marzel in the Knesset. In contrast, [Eli] Yishai’s party actually serves two important functions. First, it has attracted [Mizraḥi] voters who aren’t ready to abandon identity politics but would rather not support a convicted criminal like Shas leader Aryeh Deri. [Second,] polls currently show Shas losing about four seats, with many of those votes going to Yishai. If Shas pays a real electoral price for reinstating the corrupt Deri, other parties may think twice about tolerating corruption within their own ranks. . . .
[In sum,] the higher threshold has actually empowered Jewish extremists while disempowering Arab moderates—the worst of all possible outcomes.