Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman have reportedly agreed to increase the electoral threshold for winning seats in the Knesset to 3.25 percent of the vote, a move that critics have labeled anti-Arab.
After months of discussion, Netanyahu and Liberman finally reached agreement on upping the vote threshold for parliament from 2% to 3.25%, which will force out smaller parties who do not gain a higher enough percentage of the vote, the Haaretz daily reported on Thursday.
Under the new rules, the country’s Arab parties, which regularly only slip by the 2% threshold by a nose, would need to either coalesce or risk losing representation in the Knesset.
MK Dov Khenin, from the Arab-Jewish Communist Hadash party, which garnered 2.99% in the last election, fiercely attacked the Netanyahu-Liberman deal to set the threshold at 3.25%.
“That special number was chosen specifically in order to stop parties supported by the Arab population from gaining entry to the Knesset,” he said, according to Israel National News. “The dramatic increase in the threshold percentage will erect high walls around the political system and prevent the possibility of establishing and presenting new political forces.”
A governability bill sponsored by Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party and the Yesh Atid party originally set the minimum level at 4% but this drew strong opposition from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. Although the bill passed a July preliminary reading in the Knesset, the wrangling over reducing the threshold has held the entire bill up from a second and third reading ever since.
The current threshold of 2% of votes cast enabled 12 parties to enter the Knesset following the last election.
The government’s planned increase could cut up to one-third of the parties from the Knesset, including all three parties that represent primarily the Arab sector.
According to the report, while Livni is still uncomfortable with the bill it is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks and then sent for a second and third reading before parliament.