Many years ago one of the most respected political science lecturers in Israel, the sorely missed Professor Gideon Doron, described the political arrangement in Israel to his class, as shifting from a nominal democracy to a minimal democracy. When one looks at the present situation in Israel, it would seem that some of the politicians from within the coalition are endeavouring to minimise Israeli democracy even further. Last week the Israeli Knesset endured one of its most difficult and surreal days in its history, as the coalition was pushing through its controversial Governance Bill just before the Knesset adjourned for its summer recess. In a rare show of unity among the opposition, members from the Left, Arab, and Ultra-Orthodox parties took turns standing on the rostrum in silence in protest of the bill. Their main grievance was against the part of the bill which raises the entry threshold to the Israeli parliament to 4 percent.
More power in the hands of fewer people
One of the most disturbing, though ridiculous, accusations levelled at the Arab parties, is that it will be their fault if they do not pass the newly set threshold, as they split the Arab vote by running in three to four parties.Yossi Mekelberg
Clearly the two most vulnerable communities affected by raising the entry threshold to the Knesset are the Arab parties and the Haredi (ultra-orthodox); hence both of them feel victimised by this measure sensing that it was a deliberate attempt to exclude them from political life in Israel. One of the leading Arab MKs, Ahmed Tibi, stood silently with his back to the plenum, describing his act as symbolic of the attempt to silence the voice of the Arab voters. Another MK bluntly accused the bill's initiators of “the political transfer of the Arab population.” No one can blame either the Haredi or Arab parties for being suspicious of the motives behind the bill considering that the party that introduced it was Israel Beitenu, which is fundamentally anti-Arab and secular in its ideology. Yet, both communities believe that time is on their side because the Haredi and Arab communities are the fastest growing in Israel. The sudden alliance between these two parties is ironic in that both have had very different political experiences regarding access to power in Israel. While the Haredi parties have been extremely privileged and over-represented in past Israeli governments, Arab parties have always been excluded from the corridors of power, and were consequently deprived equal share of access to resources.