Likud MK seeks to raise Knesset threshold to 7%

Sharren Haskel says the move would stabilize parliament by removing excess of smaller parties

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Likud MK Sharren Haskel at a faction meeting in the Knesset, May 30, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Likud MK Sharren Haskel at a faction meeting in the Knesset, May 30, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A Likud lawmaker on Thursday proposed a bill that would raise the threshold for entry into the Knesset to seven percent, claiming it would stabilize parliament by filtering out smaller parties that complicate governing coalitions.

Israel’s plethora of parties competing in elections is “unheard-of in Western democracies,” MK Sharren Haskel told the Hebrew-language Maariv news site.

The proposal would require parties to win roughly eight of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

Before the last elections in 2015, the threshold was raised to 3.5%, effectively preventing parties from entering the Knesset with fewer than four seats.

“In the elections for the 20th Knesset, dozens of parties ran,” Haskel said, speaking from Taiwan, where she was participating in a trade delegation of Israeli parliamentarians. “Only 10 of them crossed the threshold, and many votes were lost.”

The bill, she explained, would force smaller parties to band together with larger ones.

“In my opinion, that will greatly help the stability of Israeli democracy.”

Factions in the current Knesset that garnered less than 7% of the vote include the left-wing Meretz party (5 seats), the ultra-Orthodox parties of United Torah Judaism (6) and Shas (7), and Yisrael Beytenu (6), led by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

While Meretz is in the opposition, United Torah Judaism and Shas are both coalition members.

The previous increase in the threshold forced three Arab parties — that individually would not have beaten the minimum — to unite and form the Joint (Arab) List. The alliance won 13 seats to become the third-largest part in the Knesset.

In a similar move, MK Tzipi Livni joined her Hatnua party to the larger Labor party, creating the Zionist Union, which secured 24 seats, making it the second-largest Knesset faction.

“I expect that in the end there will be just five parties in the Knesset,” Haskel envisioned. “Two big parties, a centrist party, an Arab party, and a right-wing religious party.”

The bill has not yet been presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for review, the report said.

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