We seem to be staring at an oncoming storm of new campaign broadcasts, shouting, blaming, and finger pointing of our politicians as we brace for a 3rd round of elections. It therefore seems worthwhile to look at the possible factors leading to this point of unprecedented impasse.
The first and most obvious problem would seem to be the majority parties of Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Ganz. Netanyahu’s long reign as Prime Minister has the opposition up in arms. Benny Ganz and his military cohorts plus Yair Lapid were put in their position precisely to oust Benjamin Netanyahu from his seat of power. Joining Likud with Netanyahu at the helm is an anathema to this group and will win the relevant parties little in favor in face of the outrage of their political supporters.
Avigdor Lieberman, who has been called ‘kingmaker’ for his outsized weight in the formation of a new coalition, was partially the cause of early elections the first time around. At the time, Lieberman was largely persona non grata in Israeli public eye. A certain level of schadenfreude was being shared as polls indicated he might not pass the threshold he himself raised. In the end, he received 5 seats, one seat more than was necessary to pass the threshold, shocking the public and showing everyone how much the Israeli polling was worth (Hint: it wasn’t worth the digital ink that published the poll results). Joining the same coalition he left the first time around, especially after receiving an increased 8 seats, would hardly seem logical.
And thus we come to the root of the problem; The raised minimum threshold to join the Israeli Knesset. I spoke out about the silencing of minority votes in favor of increased votes for larger parties at the time. In short, the practice is undemocratic and favors tyrannical governments. Now we see a larger problem that arose from the increase. Due to the loss of smaller parties, discussions and negotiations to form a government are stuck at a breakdown in negotiation between 3 large parties.
Now while it is true that the second election results were quite clear in electing the current parties with a clear dividing line in their political ideologies, this was not the case with the first elections that happened in April of this year. Had the threshold not been raised from 2 percent, an additional 4 seats would have been received by Naftali Bennet’s Yamin Hachadash, and another 3 would have been received by Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party. Had the threshold remained at 2 percent, all else being equal, the right wing parties – whose clear majority is on display even today – would probably have been able to form a 62 seat coalition without Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party.
Unfortunately, in the name of governmental stability, we’re stuck with a situation where, as President Donald Trump joked, “[Israelis] keep having elections and nobody is elected.”
I have had discussions with friends whose approach has been the opposite of mine. “We need to raise the threshold even higher. Let there be a 2 party system.”
It seems to be an endemic problem within politics that whenever a policy is being implemented and isn’t working, the response of many is a need for more of that problematic policy. This is true with regard to governmental spending and, as we see here, it is true regarding political power.
Honestly, I can think of no worse response. In what society has stifling voices of minority members of the population ever been beneficial?