Electoral Reform Has Given Israeli Extremists a Shot at the Knesset

March 20 2019

In the Israeli system, seats in the Knesset are divided proportionally among those parties that received a minimum of 3.25 percent of the national vote. Votes for any party that does not meet the 3.25-percent threshold are thus “wasted” since they don’t translate into potential members of a governing coalition. Thus, in order to ensure that both parties would pass the threshold, the religious Zionist Jewish Home party, at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s urging, merged with the Kahanist party Otzma, creating much handwringing about a supposed rising tide of chauvinism in Israel. Evelyn Gordon argues that, whatever Otzma’s defects, the real problem isn’t a change in attitudes but a 2014 decision to raise the electoral threshold from 2 percent:

With a lower threshold, Netanyahu would have no interest in promoting a merger between Jewish Home and Otzma: by definition, any party that couldn’t get elected on its own would win so few votes that [a potential governing coalition] could probably spare it. Today, however, Jewish Home could easily fail to pass the threshold while still wasting enough votes to cost the right its majority. So for anyone who considers a continuation of right-wing policy essential, as Netanyahu and Jewish Home both do, shoring up the latter through a joint ticket suddenly looks essential as well. . . .

In the seventeen years preceding Netanyahu’s 2009 victory, Israelis thrice elected former generals who campaigned against diplomatic concessions [to the Palestinians], which they promptly turned around and implemented once in office. . . . But Netanyahu has proved for ten years now that he [won’t do such a thing]. Thus anyone fearful of further territorial concessions has good reason to stick with him rather than gambling on [his leading rival, the former general Benny] Gantz. And given what previous withdrawals have cost, such fear is unquestionably justified. Yitzḥak Rabin’s Oslo Accords and Ehud Barak’s failed summit [with Yasir Arafat] both sparked upsurges of terror that together killed some 1,500 Israelis. Ariel Sharon’s disengagement [from Gaza] led to 20,000 rockets being launched on Israel’s south. . . .

[Furthermore], a lower threshold would facilitate the entry of new parties that Israel actually needs, like a moderate Arab party and a moderate ḥaredi one. Demand exists for such parties in both communities. But a higher threshold discourages voters from taking a flyer on a new party, since it means the party will have less chance of getting in and will waste more votes if it fails. Yet, as the last two elections have counterintuitively proven, a lower threshold also reduces the likelihood of extremists entering the Knesset by eliminating a powerful incentive to merge with them.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics, Knesset, Meir Kahane, Peace Process

The Logic of Iran’s Global Terror Strategy

During the past few weeks, the Islamic Republic has brutally tried to crush mass demonstrations throughout its borders. In an in-depth study of Tehran’s strategies and tactics, Yossi Kuperwasser argues that such domestic repression is part of the same comprehensive strategy that includes its support for militias, guerrillas, and terrorist groups in the Middle East and further afield, as well as its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Each of these endeavors, writes Kuperwasser, serves the ayatollahs’ “aims of spreading Islam and reducing the influence of Western states.” The tactics vary:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Latin America, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy