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High Time for Electoral Reform

Once again, the stability of Israel’s coalition government is under threat. This time it is because Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, which holds seven seats in the current Knesset, is boycotting votes in the Knesset, thereby stalling efforts to pass legislation.

Only recently, it was Mansour Abbas’ United Arab List, which has just four seats in the Knesset, that was absenting itself from the Knesset chamber thereby frustrating the work of the coalition government.

Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, which has just seven seats in the Knesset, was able to provide the necessary extra numbers to make up the present government coalition under his premiership and thereby oust Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister after over twelve years.

The current government coalition majority is so slender that it is inevitably dependent upon each and every one of its eight component parties for its very survival.

In the past, the religious charedi parties frequently held the balance of power and were able to exploit that to ensure that their demands were met on matters related to such issues as Sabbath observance, conversion, marriage and divorce.

Israel’s electoral system based on nationwide proportional representation enables extremists like Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party to be elected to the Knesset, because the voting threshold stands at just 3.25%.

Israel has held four elections in the past three years and the current coalition government could fall apart at any time.

Unfortunately, none of those in government is interested in changing the electoral system for fear of its consequences in terms of their representation. However, electoral reform, including the establishment of constituencies, is the only way to ensure that Israel enjoys a more stable form of democracy and fringe parties do not dictate its political agenda.

About the Author
Rabbi Boyden was educated and received his rabbinical ordination in London, England. Having served as the rabbi of Cheshire Reform Congregation for thirteen years, he made aliyah with his family in 1985. He has established Reform congregations in Ra'anana and Hod Hasharon and previously served as director of the Israel Reform Movement's Beit Din.
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