Netanyahu Revives Bid to Allow Israeli Expats to Vote

Prime minister also wants to change governance structure to make sure head of largest party forms government in move that could strengthen hold on premiership.

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Prime Minister Netanyahu (C) sits next to President Reuven Rivlin (R) during a Memorial Day ceremony at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem April 22, 2015.
Prime Minister Netanyahu (C) sits next to President Reuven Rivlin (R) during a Memorial Day ceremony at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem April 22, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to revive two initiatives in the area of governance that would strengthen his hold on the premiership. On Sunday, Netanyahu appointed Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to head two coalition teams to initiate and draw up the appropriate legislation.

The first proposed bill would confer the responsibility for forming a government on the leader of the largest political party in the Knesset. Currently, the president is responsible for deciding who will form the government.

The second would allow Israelis living abroad to vote in Israeli elections. It is not clear whether the right to vote will extend to emigrants who have made their home permanently abroad.

"I intend to make changes that will guaranteed governmental stability and increase effective governance," Levin said on Sunday morning.

"At the same time, I will act speedily, on the basis of coalition agreements, to advance the law to enable voting by Israelis abroad, in a way that is common to most countries around the world and that will strengthen the connection between Israeli citizens and the country."

The governance law that Netanyahu is promoting has two key clauses: the automatic right of the leader of the largest party in the Knesset to establish the next government and an increase in the number of votes needed to unseat a sitting government in a no-confidence vote, beyond the 61 votes that are required at present.

Netanyahu's intention is to ensure that any government chosen in the future will be able to govern for four full years and not disintegrate before, which has been the case in the past 29 years.

The governance bill was unveiled by Netanyahu before the previous election and became the Likud's first campaign slogan. Opponents remarked at the time that the governance problem had not emerged during the government's first two terms, during which it didn't lose a single Knesset vote. The coalition only disintegrated when Netanyahu himself decided to end it.

Netanyahu, who has believed in the proposed steps for many years, has not bothered to advance the laws until now. In the days of the Kadima government, he voted against the initiative, in part because he feared it would keep the governing centrist party in power for many more years.

During the term of the previous government, Netanyahu preferred to support, along with Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beiteinu, an initiative that did not include the two clauses. He remembered the law only last May, when his political opponent Reuven Rivlin was chosen as president.

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