Netanyahu Proposes Lowering Election Threshold

Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a sign that elections are perhaps closer than many Israelis think, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told members of this coalition that he would work to reduce the electoral threshold, a move that would allow parties to qualify for Knesset representation with fewer votes. The threshold currently requires a party to get 3.25 percent of all votes in order to get seats in the Knesset; that percentage works out to about four seats. Under Netanyahu’s proposal, the threshold would be lowered to allow parties that get 2.75 percent of all votes to qualify for Knesset representation, allowing for three-member party representation.

Netanyahu floated the idea to coalition members at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, telling them that it would only go through if all of them supported it. Ha’aretz said that Netanyahu has been discussing the idea with officials of the various coalition members privately in recent weeks.

The most likely beneficiary of the move would be Shas, which has been teetering on the threshold in recent polls. According to Ha’aretz, however, Shas head Rabbi Aryeh Deri is opposed to the move. In previous discussions with United Torah Judaism, the report said, that party too has expressed opposition to the change.

The threshold had previously been 2 percent, allowing for two-member parties, but was raised to 3.25 percent in the last elections, at the suggestion of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who sought to use the move to lock Arab parties out of Knesset. Instead, they united on a single list, and currently the Arab parties have 13 Knesset members.