Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday proposed to the coalition leaders lowering the threshold by half a percent, Ha’aretz reported on Sunday, conditioning the move on a unanimous agreement. “Without such an agreement, we will not move forward on the issue,” Netanyahu said.
A coalition source told Ha’aretz that the purpose of the move is to help Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whose party Shas is expected not to pass the electoral threshold in the next elections. But Deri’s associates made clear that the Interior Minister is opposed to lowering the threshold, fearing that this would let his rival, Eli Yishai, enter the Knesset.
In 2015, Yishai’s Yachad party received only 2.97% of the vote, failing to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold, and did not win any seats. Netanyahu saw Eli Yishai’s failure as a waste of two or three seats that might have increase the national camp to as many as 70 seats in the current Knesset. Now, faced with a potential disappearance of two rightwing parties in the next elections, the PM is reluctant to remain on the sidelines in this regard.
Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman’s office confirmed that he, too, is opposed to lowering the threshold.
A vote threshold is the minimum percentage of the national votes required to obtain representation in Parliament. Before 1992, the threshold percentage in Israel stood at 1%, and between 1992 and 2003 it was raised to 1.5%. In May 2004, an amendment to the Knesset Elections Law was passed, raising the threshold to 2%.
Prior to the last elections, in 2015, another amendment was passed to the Election Law, raising it from 2% to 3.25%. The move, led by then Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, was aimed at blocking the Arab Knesset factions.
But the next elections could threaten parties like Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and Deri’s Shas, which according to polls may not pass the threshold.