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Knesset raises threshold to four seats, putting Arab parties at risk of not entering parliament

The new legislation will benefit medium-sized parties like the settlers’ Jewish Home and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, while increasing the influence of big money on politics.

The Knesset approved today (Tuesday) several changes in its elections and governance laws. Among other things, the changes will make it more difficult to challenge the government in a vote of non-confidence, and set the threshold for entering the Knesset at 3.25 percent, or roughly four Knesset seats.

The legislation is a joint initiative by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu (which united with Netanyahu’s Likud party prior to the last elections). The final vote in the Knesset passed by a 67-0 majority, with the entire opposition boycotting the vote to protest the coalition’s implementation of special procedural measures earlier this week.

The new law will mostly affect the three Palestinian parties, which usually win between 3-4 seats each. Hadash, the joint Arab-Jewish party, currently has four seats; the same goes for the United Arab List (a unification of three parties, including the Islamic Ta’al party). The secular Balad party, which currently has three seats, would not have made it into the Knesset under the new law. Prior to the last elections, Knesset members banned Balad MK Hanin Zoabi from participating in the elections, a decision that was later overruled by the Supreme Court.

Kadima, an opposition party that has two seats in the current Knesset, would not have not made it in as well under the new legislation.

MK Hanin Zoabi addressing supporters in Kufar Manda, Israel, standing behind a Palestinian flag, January 2013 (photo: GS)

MK Hanin Zoabi addressing supporters in Kufar Manda, Israel. In the past, Knesset members banned Zoabi from participating in he elections, but their decision was overuled by the Supreme Court. (photo: GS)

The law might benefit medium-size parties like Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Shas and the settlers’ Jewish Home party, since they will not stand the risk of losing supporters to fringe parties, especially now that voters know that those factions are not likely to enter the Knesset. In the last elections, the settlers lost two seats because of an unsuccessful run by the far-right Otzma Le’Yisrael party, while Shas took a hit due to attempts by Rabbi Amsalem and Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak to run on their own.

The new legislation is also likely to increase the influence of the financial elite and the mainstream media on the political system, as it will make it harder for smaller parties to launch guerrilla campaigns or win seats in the Knesset. This will happen because more resources will be required to run a successful political campaign.

Supporters of the law claim that it will diminish the disproportional bargaining power of small factions while strengthening the government’s ability to execute its policies. However, a closer examination of the political history shows that 2-4 person factions do not enjoy such powers at all, and that Palestinian parties, which will be hurt most by the change, have never been made part of the coalition, nor do have they ever received any special benefits (quite the opposite is true, in fact).

The ultra-Orthodox parties, which are often accused of “extorting” benefits in return for political support, have won four seats or more in every election since 1996. In fact, Shas has never won fewer than four seats.

The current legislation disproves the claim that the government’s ability to execute is or has ever truly been at risk. Whenever an Israeli government was united behind a certain piece of legislation or policy initiative – war, settlements construction or evacuation – it had no problem pushing it forward.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, July 29, 2013 (Photo: Tali Mayer/ Activestills.org)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid and his party member Ofer Shelah. Yesh Atid was the driving force behind the new legistlation, July 29, 2013 (Photo: Tali Mayer/ Activestills.org)

The Palestinian parties will now need to either unite or risk losing their place in the Knesset. In recent months, Arab MKs have expressed rage over the attempts to force a union on them, pointing to the fact that the communists of Hadash, the seculars of Balad and the Islamic members of the Knesset have very little in common – save for being Palestinian. Many in the Arab public feel that those who suggest the parties unite are perpetuating the Jewish public’s tendency to view the Palestinian minority as one single monolith – deprived of the complexity and political competition that Jews see in themselves.

However, due to both the low voter turnout among Palestinians and Israel’s electoral arithmetic, a joint list might actually increase Palestinian representation in the Knesset.

Two more pieces of controversial laws are bound to pass this week: a national military service reform, which will impose draft quotas on the ultra-Orthodox community (which is currently exempt from service), and the referendum law, which states that any evacuation of Israeli territory must first be approved by a national referendum, making a territorial compromise in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas harder to achieve. The referendum law does not apply to the rest of the West Bank, which was never annexed by Israel.

Related:
Knesset approves bill that could push Arab parties out
Zoabi: Voting in Israeli elections is part of the struggle
Why Palestinian citizens don’t vote in Israeli elections

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    COMMENTS

    1. Vadim

      It took less than 2 decades before the “Russian” parties disappeared. They disappeared because their voters did not have a separate agenda they wanted to promote. They became Israelis and voted for all kinds of parties.

      What agenda does Tibi promote? What did Jamal Zahalka do to make the lives of Israeli Arabs in specific better? Nothing. Not a damn thing.

      So why is there a need for “Arabic” parties? What does the existence of such parties give to the average Israeli Arab that their existence is seen as sacred? When was the last time any of these parties has addressed some real issues haunting Israeli Arabs?

      Reply to Comment
    2. It is a bit strange to now know that your Justice Minister and chief negotiator in the current Kerry talks, Tzipi Livni, now sits for a party which has effectively been written out of representation without a voter comeback; but maybe, as part of the coalition, she voted for this measure too.

      From what you say, the net result of this law will be to enhance expectation among members of the present coalition that the same coalition will be viable next election, which should reduce any “go it alone” strategies in that election. Basically, they can present to one another the prospect of an enduring government.

      Since divide and conquer is a common way of dealing with minorities, it is possible, I guess, that this law will have a reverse effect to that, nurturing an Israeli Palestinian nationalism which the present coalition actual deems illegitimate. Along with the Nakba Law, another indicator that whatever representational means employed by the majority are disallowed or discouraged for the predominate structural minority in the country.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Danny

      Very strange. This government, so intent on making Christian Arabs distinct from Muslim Arabs (to the point of even stating that Christians are NOT Arabs), forces them to effectively unite under a common platform. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Israel’s government suffer from some form of schizophrenia and split-personality.

      Then again, I do know better, and recognize that Israel hopes all Arabs (Muslim, Christian and otherwise) effectively disappear from the political scene.

      I truly hope the Arab parties can put aside their differences and unite their forces leading up to the next election and grow their power even more (they should have around 25 seats based on their %).

      Then I’d love to see the reaction on Yariv Levin’s shit-eating face.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        There’s another option you did not consider. That your assumption that the government is “so intent on making Christian Arabs distinct from Muslim Arabs” is simply wrong.

        I hope Arab parties will finally start looking after their voters, it’s much more effective that shouting Occupation and Fascism all the time.

        Reply to Comment
    4. bar

      This isn’t about minorities, this is about minority parties making the running of the country very challenging. The best thing that could happen to Israel’s Arabs would be to have one or two stronger parties that play the coalition game effectively. Of course, to do that, they’d have to get real politicians instead of their current anti-Israel propagandists. Let us all hope for such an outcome.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Noel

      What a joke! Confirming that Israel is an apartheid state.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bar

        How so?

        Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        It’s a trait of some people to be able to find confirmations of us being the cause of all evil in the universe in EVERYTHING.

        Sadly, it’s not rare gift.

        Reply to Comment
    6. shachalnur

      When Bennett took over the National Religious Party in 2008 they had 3 seats in the Knesset(2006 elections).

      Where would Bennett be if there was no small party available to bring his platform in the Knesset?

      Having to name a new prime minister when you want a motion of no-confidence vote against the sitting government makes it almost impossible to bring down a government in Israel.

      All three new laws will just make Israel more of a dictatorship then it already is.

      Democracy after all is nothing more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

      Muslim Palestinians can not be forced to vote for a Christian Palestinian party,just like Bedouin and Druze are a different people than the Palestinians.

      These new laws will push any Palestinian,Bedouin,Druze,Russian Christians or Ultra Orthodox out of Israeli political life.

      The wolves have decided to have the sheep for dinner,and after that they will eat eachother.

      It’s not the small parties they want to eliminate,they want to silence any dissenting voices and stop these voices from being heard by the population.

      For the outside world and the Israeli public there will be no opposition to the parties that stay within the borders of what the dictatorship allows.

      You wouldn’t start a Jewish party for the German elections in 1936 wouldn’t you,and if you would they will make laws to stop you from reaching the parliament?

      Nothing different now,it has already worked once,why change tactics?.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        I honestly don’t understand your reasoning.

        “Where would Bennett be if there was no small party available to bring his platform in the Knesset?”

        What kind of reason is this?! Why is something that’s OK for Spain, Sweden, Italy or Germany (to name a but few) becomes a crisis when it comes to Israel.

        “Having to name a new prime minister when you want a motion of no-confidence vote against the sitting government makes it almost impossible to bring down a government in Israel.”

        I don’t see anything good in being able to put a country into stagnation just because you can. A bad leadership is almost always better than no leadership.

        “All three new laws will just make Israel more of a dictatorship then it already is.”

        That’s complete nonsense, from start to finish. We are not a dictatorship.

        “Democracy after all is nothing more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”

        Perhaps, but it’s irrelevant to the question at hand.

        “Muslim Palestinians can not be forced to vote for a Christian Palestinian party,just like Bedouin and Druze are a different people than the Palestinians.”

        No one is forced to do anything. They can vote for whatever party they think will better represent their agenda. It doesn’t have to be a Muslim or Druze party. What do Druze and Muslims do in the US? What did the Druze in Israel do all this time without a party?!

        “These new laws will push any Palestinian,Bedouin,Druze,Russian Christians or Ultra Orthodox out of Israeli political life.”

        Nonsense. They can either form a party together or join one of the bigger Israeli parties.

        Regardless – NOTHING (divine intervention included) will be able to push the Ultra Orthodox out of Israeli political life.

        “It’s not the small parties they want to eliminate,they want to silence any dissenting voices and stop these voices from being heard by the population.”

        But the same people will simply join other parties!

        “For the outside world and the Israeli public there will be no opposition to the parties that stay within the borders of what the dictatorship allows.”

        Again, nothing will change.

        “You wouldn’t start a Jewish party for the German elections in 1936 wouldn’t you,and if you would they will make laws to stop you from reaching the parliament?”

        Yes, but there are no such rules in Israel.

        So, to sum it up –
        1. Nothing is going to change, the same politicians (Arab and Jews) will keep doing nothing for their voters. Only some parties will change a bit.
        2. Integration of Arab MKs (and public in general) into larger parties is an important step in the right direction.
        3. There’s really no crisis here.
        4. Besides a fetish of some sorts, there was really no need to drag Nazi Germany into this debate.

        Now, please name a single law promoted by Arab MKs that specifically benefits Israeli Arabs. Now consider what that means for the importance of having such parties?

        Reply to Comment
        • shachalnur

          Vadim,

          I think you missed my point.

          We’re talking 3 laws,that are interconnected,and so is the timing of pushing these laws through.

          Israel is moving into a decisive fase,and the ruling class is making sure nothing silly like the opposition or the public will cause any problems.

          They are preparing a dictatorship in the best interest of all these stupid little infighting groups,and will call it a benevolent dictatorship.

          If they can turn Israel into a dictatorship in theory “but won’t do it”,you have to ask the question why they are creating the conditions.

          Comparing Sweden and Israel is a weak argument,since there are no groups in Sweden that have their men ,women and children humiliated,imprisoned and killed for refusing to accept to be kicked off their lands and treated like dogs.

          In the countries you mentioned the vote is about employment and taxes,in Israel it is about Israel’s future and what to do with the Palestinians;Co-exist,ethnically cleanse, or just kill ‘m all.

          Just like in the US there’s the Patriot act,DHS,Fema-camps and NDAA.

          There’s no problem because they will never activate any of these laws,right?

          In short,Israel is not “evil”,she is just entering a fase where TPTB in Israel decided that a benevolent dictatorship is neccessary,in order to silence all these dissenting voices,and stop hoi poloi from “harming themselves”.

          They made the laws,they will use them,so you keep telling yourself they won’t.

          History has proven that that line of thought will lead to an obedient population,besides some that will end up in Gulags or re-education camps.

          If nothing changes,why make the laws?

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            “We’re talking 3 laws,that are interconnected,and so is the timing of pushing these laws through.”

            There is no timing, these laws have been discussed for years. Now, the right coalition exists to finally pass the legislation.

            “Israel is moving into a decisive phase ,and the ruling class is making sure nothing silly like the opposition or the public will cause any problems.”

            I don’t know what decisive phase you’re talking about. Such claims generally require more proof than you can provide.

            “They are preparing a dictatorship in the best interest of all these stupid little infighting groups,and will call it a benevolent dictatorship.”

            That’s nonsense. It’s just you projecting. I’ve been hearing this dictatorship stuff for years. Nothing ever happens.

            “If they can turn Israel into a dictatorship in theory “but won’t do it”,you have to ask the question why they are creating the conditions.”

            In theory, any country can be converted to a dictatorship. No one is immune. So, there is nothing special to discuss when it comes to Israel.

            “Comparing Sweden and Israel is a weak argument,since there are no groups in Sweden that have their men ,women and children humiliated,imprisoned and killed for refusing to accept to be kicked off their lands and treated like dogs.”

            That’s a very lacking and oversimplified description of history. A civil war would be a better description. One the other side has started and lost. Israeli Arabs have full rights. The PA and Hamas can’t even recognize our right to exist.

            Since it’s Israeli Arabs we’re talking here, Sweden with its share of minorities is a wonderful example.

            “In the countries you mentioned the vote is about employment and taxes,in Israel it is about Israel’s future and what to do with the Palestinians;Co-exist,ethnically cleanse, or just kill ‘m all.”

            You forgot another option often promoted – surrender to Hamas, be slaughtered and scattered around the world.

            “Just like in the US there’s the Patriot act,DHS,Fema-camps and NDAA.

            There’s no problem because they will never activate any of these laws,right?”

            Don’t know. I don’t have an opinion about things I don’t know enough about. That’s a nice approach, you should try it sometime.

            “In short,Israel is not “evil”,she is just entering a fase where TPTB in Israel decided that a benevolent dictatorship is neccessary,in order to silence all these dissenting voices,and stop hoi poloi from “harming themselves”.”

            I have no idea what you just said here. Regardless – it’s just your claim. You don’t have a shred of evidence.

            “They made the laws,they will use them,so you keep telling yourself they won’t.”

            Of course they will use them, that’s the whole purpose of making laws. Why would I tell myself otherwise?

            “History has proven that that line of thought will lead to an obedient population,besides some that will end up in Gulags or re-education camps.”

            There are no Gulags or re-education camps in view, stop inventing. There is no line of thought, there is nothing out of the ordinary in what is done in Israel. Stop this hysteria.

            “If nothing changes,why make the laws?”

            Because they are useful. They fix stuff.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            Vadim,

            I agree that most of your arguments could turn out to be as correct as mine.

            You’re saying”move along now,nothing to see here”,while I say the timing is important.

            I see what is happening in Israel and the Middle East not as an isolated conflict ,but as part of a much bigger confrontation.

            “Proof” of that will take pages,but what it means for Jews I can illustrate best by an article by Mark Langfan today in Arutz Sheva(Right wing pro-settler site).

            “Wealthy American Jews abetted Iran’s nukes”.

            Please read my comments further down this thread for content.

            Reply to Comment
        • Germany, Spain, Sweden, etc.: as Dahlia Scheindlin points out, those countries do not have the same kind of structural minority that Israel does.

          http://972mag.com/the-electoral-threshold-stoking-conflict/88333/

          Spain may be seen as having two, but these were dealt with via federated autonomy (which has begun to unravel with the Great Recession).

          The reason why Arab MK’s do not promote targeted bills is that they have always been locked out of governing coalitions. I think this lock out goes both ways. But certainly the Nakba Law, passed by the previous government which in attitude is the same as the present government, provides no rationale for Arab accommodation. They see silencing and road blocks. You see ideological estrangement and willful refusal to cooperate. Do you really think this new election law is going to alter either of these?

          Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        Knesset contains 120 members.

        Governance Law; 67 votes for,53 boycotted the vote.

        Equal Service Bill;65 votes for,1 against,54 boycotted the vote.

        In a country without a Constitution you can implement a dictatorship with 50 % of the votes + one.

        Implement a dictatorship with less than 50% of the total amount of those who have voting rights

        That the oppositon refuses to vote is the only correct thing to do historically.

        Once the small parties are eliminated ,the dictatorship will force everybody who still has hair to paint their hair blond, wear blue eye lenses,and allow only kipot srugot.

        Sounds like heaven.

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          In theory you can. In reality – it’s not going to happen. Not only because coalition MKs will not support it, not only because the Israeli High Court of Justice will fight any such attempts but simply because democracy as a concept is too widely accepted in Israeli public.

          The opposition does what the Israeli left ALWAYS does – it gets hysterical. Any law passed by the coalition is deemed FASCIST and RACIST, every change is described as THE DEATH OF THE ISRAELI DEMOCRACY, as a STEPPING OVER THE LINE and other similar nonsense.

          This is not good, this eliminates proper dialog and discussion and turns everything into a drama.

          I still don’t know what to make of the law and whether it’ll be good or bad for Israel. Still thinking about it. But a thoughtful analysis like Noam wrote is much more useful than the “Israel is so evil” ranting.

          Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          Shachalnur, increasingly you sound so incoherent and incomprehensible that even you yourself do not understand you yourself. Would you mind answering the following questions that arise from your post for so far anything could be made out of it: (a) what is a Constitution, (b) what is the difference between Israel’s Basic Law and said Constitution and (c) how does Israel – in terms of Constitution – differ from Great Britain? Or, maybe it’s time for you to find a job and keep yourself busy with something else you are capable of handling – to give meaning to your life? Mediocrity is not an option in anything re Israel.

          Reply to Comment
    7. And what about the other rules?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Tomer

      If the Arabs don’t like this new Knesset, let them move to Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Libya or anywhere their “form of democracy” works for them better.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Tzutzik

      “Shachalnur, increasingly you sound so incoherent and incomprehensible that even you yourself do not understand you yourself.”

      You are flattering the bastard.

      He is a hater. He is a court Jew who wants to eliminate the only Jewish nation state that exists. At the same time, he is fighting tooth and nail to bring about the 23rd Arab Muslim state.

      During the Holocaust we had Capos, now we have the likes of Shachalnur. Judenrats.

      PS
      I take him at his word that he is Jewish. He does seem to speak broken Hebrew. And he did exhibit rudimentary knowledge of Jewish customs.

      Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        Sure baroer.

        Reply to Comment
        • shachalnur

          Schtutzik,

          I’ve already told you that you know nothing about WW2.

          I told you to keep an eye on Arutz Sheva,the Ultra Zionist settler site,who are not only aware of history ,but actually write more and more about WW2 and the role of rich US/european Jews before and during WW2.

          Today an article by Mark Langfan,one of the Zionist favorites.

          article:
          “Wealthy American Jews have abetted Iran’s nukes”

          quotes;”That’s right,instead of cheering the non-Jewish American plan of opening Alaska to persecuted Jews,the ultra -safe American Jews slammed the doors hard shut on Jews about to be mass-murdered by the millions.”

          “You don’t believe me,here’s the quote from wikipedia,read and weep.”

          “Here come the uber-rich, uber-safe,”Holocaust aware” American Jews of 2014.Are they any different than the “Kristallnacht aware”Rabbi Stephan Samuel Wise,and all the other rich American Jews of 1938? they are worse.”

          These kind of articles started showing up on Arutz Sheva about a year ago.

          The settlers are one of the few groups that understand that the biggest threat to Israel and Jews are Ultra-rich American/European Jews,the same Jews that refused to do anything about the predicament Jews were in before 1940.

          But since you refuse to even read sources from your own part of the Tribe,you are,without knowing,doing the work for these rich Banker Jews.

          For them power ,money and the New World Order is much more important than a few million Jews in Israel,and the rest of the world.

          At least the settlers are aware now,and I’m allowed to write anything I want on that site,it’s not being seen as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel,it’s seen as a welcome addition to the truth.

          Right now,besides the Internet,and the Ultra Orthodox Jews,Arutz Sheeva is the only source in Israel telling part of the truth about the Holocaust.

          Unless you start educating yourself ,I will refrain from reacting to your provocations,and I will see you as an (un)paid troll in the spirit of the Jews before WW2,the Jews partly responsable for millions of dead fellow Jews.

          That’s why I said you are a bigger threat to Jews than all Arabs and , so-called, anti-Semites together.

          Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            Read the Langfan article,then see my answer to comment nr.4.

            Write the final words down in Hebrew,translate into German.

            Also other comments that get through strict moderation will surprise you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “But since you refuse to even read sources from your own part of the Tribe,you are,without knowing,doing the work for these rich Banker Jews.”

            When are people like you, Shachalnur, going to understand and accept the principle that BAD people are just that. BAD PEOPLE!!! Full stop.

            There are many powerful and nasty atheist bankers as well as Christian and Muslim bankers but we don’t go around calling them atheist bankers, Christian bankers or Muslim bankers conspiring to do this or to do that to enrich themselves over the carcasses of others. So why are Jewish bankers different? Can’t they be just their little old self bad individuals? Why does the word “Jewish” have to creep in with anything that is bad? In order to stoke old hatreds and prejudices?

            As for what Arutz Sheva says, I could not care less. I am an individual who thinks for himself and I make up my own mind which is more than what I can say for you Shachalnur. You played your cards and you make yourself very clear. You spout party lines and conspiracy theories which emphasise at every turn how we Jews are bad, how we are the authors of our own misfortune and bring “just” retribution upon ourselves. Because of course no one out there would do anything bad to us unless we deserve it. Not much, right Shachalnur?

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            What “party line” ,and what “conspiracy theory”?

            And what Langfan,a Zionist,writes about is conspiracy FACT.

            Please don’t read anything that will cause cognitive dissonance.

            You made it clear what you are,and I will refrain from any further discussion with some one like you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “You made it clear what you are,and I will refrain from any further discussion with some one like you.”

            Whew, what a relief. But hear this: if I see you put your foot in your mouth I will point it out to others.

            Otherwise I too will leave you alone.

            PS
            As I recall, you were the one who started posting to me and I was the one who said to you that we would probably agree to disagree but we could still be civilised. And who is the one who started being abusive? I will leave that question hanging. You know the answer to that and if you would be honest, you would admit it.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            You poor victim.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            See? There you go again. You promised not to talk to me one post ago and you immediately broke your own promise.

            So here. Me a victim? No. But people like you are doing their damnest to try to make us victims again. You won’t succeed.

            Reply to Comment
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