Rightists Fear New Election Threshold Will Bring More Arabs to Knesset

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah, who is pushing for passing of Governability Law, says outcry labeling it anti-democratic move not warranted.

Right-wing Israeli parties are concerned that the raising of the Knesset entry threshold to 4 percent of votes cast in elections will conversely lead to an increase in the number of Arab MKs, Yesh Atid's Knesset whip MK Ofer Shelah said on Wednesday.

“Many on the right are worried that if the Arab parties unite in a technical bloc, many more Arab voters will go to the polling stations," Shelah, whose party is pushing for passing of the new Governability Law along with Yisrael Beiteinu, wrote on his Facebook page.

"Arabs constitute roughly 20 percent of the population, although fewer than 10 percent of MKs are Arabs due to low turnout in their communities. A larger turnout will increase their representation in the Knesset," he wrote.

"This prospect does not worry me personally," wrote Shelah. "The law is intended to create larger party blocs which will facilitate coalition negotiations and enhance the stability of governments.” In his words, “one can debate the proposal and try to change it, but it doesn’t warrant the huge outcry which labeled it an anti-democratic move and a suppression of the opposition.”

Shelah also noted in his post that Labor MKs such as Isaac Herzog, who now oppose the bill, supported its earlier versions which also called for a 4 percent threshold.

The disputed governability bill will be pushed forward during the summer recess, in contrast to an earlier agreement reached with the opposition parties, which would have extended the vote until November to convince the prime minister and his coalition partners to remove the 4 percent clause.

The opposition fears that smaller parties, mainly the Arab ones, will have to merge in order to pass the new threshold.

Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem, who proposed the bill on behalf of Yisrael Beiteinu, has informed members however that he intends to hold three sessions despite the recess to ensure that the second and third readings of the bill take place in September.

Rotem’s initiative indicates that the coalition intends to pass the Governability Law in an accelerated process. Rotem sent personal letters to all MK’s inviting them to meet him and discuss the bill, asking them to bring different experts along in order to examine all its aspects in depth.

It was over the course of the budget vote that all prior agreements collapsed. The Labor Party reneged on the agreed timetable and refused to stop the exhausting night-long marathon voting process. This followed media claims that Labor had nothing to show for its efforts to influence the budget.