Michael Boyden

Israel’s Electoral System Is Insane

As Israel goes to the polls for the fifth time in three and a half years, those unfamiliar with Israel’s electoral system might be interested in a brief summary of how it works (or doesn’t work!)

The Israeli system is known as Party List Proportional Representation. If your party wins 50% of the vote, you are entitled to 50% of the seats in the Knesset.

There were no less than 39 (!) different lists to choose from last time round, and nearly four and a half million Israelis voted (67.44%).

In order to reduce the number of parties in the Knesset, an electoral threshold was introduced requiring a party to win at least 3.25% of the vote in order to be represented.

However, it did not achieve the desired result. The present Knesset comprises no less than 20 different parties of which 11 form the current government!

Clearly things need to change, but in spite of the recommendations of numerous committees and think-tanks, vested interests and fear of the repercussions prevent progress.

And so a weary electorate will go to the polls on Tuesday knowing that any result will be borderline, which is bad for democracy and creates unstable government.

They say: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Israel’s electoral system is insane.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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