Israel’s Next Election is in One Year, and Netanyahu is Trying to Ensure He Wins

Netanyahu previously pushed to increase Israel’s electoral threshold. Now, he wants to lower it ahead of 2019 vote

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Israel's next general election will be held in 2019, assuming the current government serves its full term–a rarity in these parts, but a very real possibility with just over a year to go.

Ahead of that, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be maneuvering to ensure he continues to add to his record as Israel's longest-serving leader.

A proposal put forward by Netanyahu this week would lower the electoral threshold for parties seeking a seat in the Knesset to 2.75 percent.

It was just ahead of the last election in 2014 that Netanyahu and his Likud Party pushed to raise said threshold to its current 3.25 percent.

At the time, Netanyahu was accused of trying to prevent the rival Kadima Party, created by the late-Ariel Sharon when he broke with Likud in 2005, and the three Arab factions from getting into the Knesset. All four parties had struggled to pass the threshold in the previous election, and bumping it up to 3.25 percent could easily have been their political death-knell.

But Kadima and the Arabs overcame the challenge by (in the case of the former) joining with larger factions or (as the latter did) uniting as a single list.

What's since become apparent is that Netanyahu and Likud were motivated at least as much by weakening and eliminating smaller right-wing and religious parties. These factions often cause Netanyahu far more headaches than those on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

If that was the goal, it worked, sort of.

A number of smaller right-wing and/or religious parties failed to pass the threshold and found themselves with nowhere to sit in the 20th Knesset.

But that also had an unintended negative consequence.

The raising of the electoral threshold didn't stop the smaller parties from running, and from garnering votes. And while the Arab and left-wing factions were willing to unite to avoid defeat, such a proposition is a much harder sell on the right, especially among the various Orthodox Jewish parties.

The Yachad party is a prime example of why this poses a problem for Netanyahu. Yachad received 124,984 votes in 2014, putting it just shy of the threshold. Having those votes removed from the final tally of valid votes for Knesset ended up shifting the proportional weight in such a way that the extreme-left Meretz party was awarded a fifth mandate.

This time around, it seems Netanyahu would prefer to keep the balance tilted toward the right, even if that means having to contend with the demands of additional smaller coalition partners.


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