Monday, June 14, 2021

Guide To The Perplexed, Israeli Political System Simplified

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett 

After over half a century in Israel, I have a pretty good idea how the political system works. I don't think it's like many others. I'm going to try to simplify it here, aiming to say how it's run in positive rather than negative sentences/points. I will try to use easy to understand terminology.

  • The Israeli Political System is a parliamentary democracy.
  • The Israeli Political System has only proportional representation.
  • Israeli citizens vote for political parties*.
  • The 120 Knesset seats are proportionately divided among the political parties that received a legally set percentage of the votes and more.
  • After votes are fully counted, the political parties negotiate a coalition government, because no single party has ever gotten a majority of the Knesset seats.
  • The Prime Minister is chosen/voted in by the majority of Knesset Members who generally are in the political parties that have joined the coalition. 
  • Coalition negotiations decide which participating political parties get which ministries, committee chairmanships and other important positions.
  • When a government falls and new elections are called, the sitting government continues until after a new coalition is voted in.**
*Each political party has a numbered list of candidates who become MKs according to election results.
**That interim government cannot be voted out. Netanyahu had spent the last few years as interim Prime Minister, perfectly safe from losing his position as long as no new coalition run by another party could be formed.

Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett

I hope that this explanation is clear. If you have any questions, please write in the comments. 

This isn't the place/post to complain that YOU think it's a dumb system. The purpose of this post is just to explain the existing  Israeli Political System.


Sammy Finkelman said...

Netanyahu actually did manage to form a coalition after the last election but it is believed by many he contrived to have the government fall by the Knesset not approving a budget - this also prevented a planned rotation with Benny Gantz although I think the time for that had not arrived.

Parties can split after being elected to the Knesset.

In the event someone leaves the Knesset the member is replaced by the next one on the lost. Some religious parties have planned that in advance.

There is also the recently passed "Norwegian Law" which allows Cabinet members to temporarily leave the Knesset and get their seat back after leaving the Cabinet.

The minimum percentage of votes necessary to get into the Knesset used to be 1% (equal to 1.2 seats) then I think 2% and it's now four seats. Fractional votes are allocated and parties can also assign fractions to other parties by agreement, but only parties that made the threshold count. Bennett didn't make the cut in the first of the four elections since 2019.

One of the articles in the new coalition agreement is to force Benjamin Netanyahu out of the Knesset after the next election by imposing term limits on a Prime Minister (I'm not sure exactly what - one source says 8 years) and also providing that any term limited Prime Minister cannot run fpr any elected office for four years after that.

Batya said...

I didn't put everything in. It was Bennett's second that didn't get in, but he returned.
Bibi's coalition with Gantz was a rapid failure and the tricks played made Gantz prefer to be a minor partner to Bennett-Lapid rather than ever trusting Bibi (and probably the Likud) again.
Also Gidon Saar prefers playing a minor role in the new coalition. Bibi and his poodles have been making lots of enemies. I know Bibi will be fighting the inevitable for awhile but it's a very sad tragic end for someone with such intelligence and potential.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Wasn;t this the first election?

APRIL 11, 2019 5:38 PM

"The numbers released Thursday night in Israel show Bennett and Shaked’s party, the New Right, falling just short of the 3.25 percent vote threshold necessary to enter Knesset. The party’s 138,000 votes fell fewer than 1,500 short of the threshold/"

Sammy Finkelman said...

>> I know Bibi will be fighting the inevitable for awhile but it's a very sad tragic end for someone with such intelligence and potential.

Bret Stephens wrote in his New York Times column that Netanyahu lasted in office so long "because he was, in many ways, good at the job" but there was one thing he wasn't good at: his form of politics. He had "habits of demagogy, vilification, sleaziness and sheer pettiness — a politics that ultimately brought him down."

Batya said...

Bibi's losing respect. Bennett has made a point of speaking nicely and getting along with people.

Sammy Finkelman said...

I heard that Bennett in his speech (in the Knesset?) said something that is a song. To look at someone's ma'alot and not chesronot, but I cannot find it here:

Can you track it down?

Sammy Finkelman said...

From Wikipedia:

" The threshold is 3.25% in Israel's Knesset (it was 1% before 1992, 1.5% in 1992–2003 and 2% 2003–2014)"

Avigdor Lieberman was responsible for raising it to 3.25% (equal to 4.2 seats)

Batya said...

Bennett quoted a line from a children's song about getting along, but it's hard to catch it in English. I read about it.
I'll see if I can find it from someone more in the know.

Sammy Finkelman said...

The new issue *dated 8 Tammuz 5781 | June 18, 2021) of the English language Yated Ne'eman in the United States says at the start if its Spotlight on Israeli News section starting on page 144 that this was said at the government's first meeting, and describes it as the tefillah of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (which it probably was before it got incorporated into a song. Many modern Hebrew songs take as their words a quotation, sometimes familiar and sometimes not so much)

It translates it as: "On the contrary, place in our hearts the ability to see only the good in our friends and not their shortcomings! May we speak to each other in a way that is straight and desirable in Your eyes. May there be no hatred between friends, Heaven forbid."

He opened the meeting with a Shehechiiyonu and ended it with this prayer (obviously directed at the members of his Cabinet - not he entire Knesset or alll citizens of Israel)

Elimelech Weisblum of Lizhensk lived from 1717 to March 11, 1787. This is about that prayer:

A different prayer he composed:

Short Wikipedia article about him, and where he fit in:

Batya said...

Thanks so much. I really appreciate your participation here.

Cohen Y said...

Seems similar to many other 20th century Continental European Systems without the benefits of at least some sort of regionalisms

Batya said...

Thanks, that makes sense. I remember sometime when Italy kept going into election mode, similar to what we've suffered through.