3 years after he proposed increasing the electoral threshold in the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had a change of heart; he now hopes to lower the threshold from 3.25% to 2%, a move which would save thousands of votes from the right from disqualification. Interior Minister Arie Deri: “Netanyahu has stabbed us in the back, we don’t need any favors from him.”

Netanyahu at the Knesset

Netanyahu at the Knesset Photo Credit: Knesset webpage/ Channel 2 News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed lowering the electoral threshold, a move that could increase the number of political parties represented in the Knesset. This is an about-face for Netanyahu, who had supported raising the threshold from 2% to 3.25% in the previous administration. Lowering the electoral threshold would benefit Netanyahu by preventing the disqualification of thousands of votes from the right.

The move was met with outrage in the Shas party- despite it ultimately benefitting the ultra-Orthodox party and its leader Interior Minister Arie Deri- because it would also help Deri’s political rival, Eli Yishai.

After hearing the news for the first time from a Channel 2 report, Deri told his associates that “Netanyahu has stabbed us in the back with this announcement. Shas will get stronger in the upcoming elections and doesn’t need any favors from Netanyahu.” He continued: “Netanyahu earned Shas’ support and in response, he promotes initiatives against Shas and without consulting with us. I have already notified David Bitan [Chairman of the coalition] this evening and I am telling Netanyahu- reducing the threshold will not work and don’t even try it.”

In 2014, Netanyahu’s government initiated and approved an increase in the electoral threshold. This move led to a unification of the Arab parties into the joint list, which became the third largest faction in the bloc, while Eli Yishai and his Yachad party failed to pass the threshold.

In a poll published over the past few weeks, Yishai once again failed to pass the threshold while the Shas party’s position wavered. The Bayit Hayehudi party, meanwhile, is in danger of splitting into two lists: The National Union and Bayit Hayehudi. Faced with these results, Netanyahu intends to lower the threshold to about 2 percent. The move is expected to benefit both Shas and Eli Yishai’s Yachad party and is supposed to save hundreds of thousands of votes for the right that would otherwise be disqualified.