Tag Archives: Israeli elections

Why Israel’s Crazy Electoral System Might Be Best Idea Ever

Haim Watzman


My piece praising Israel’s proportional electoral system is now up on the Forward’s website.


Jewish suffragettes scored a signal achievement in 1920, when the first nationwide elections were held in the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine. They received 600 votes.

Woman looking at election posters, 1949--Knesset website
Woman looking at election posters, 1949–Knesset website
This smattering of women — we may presume that nearly all of them were women — went to their polling places and chose, from among nearly two dozen others, the slip of paper designating the slate of the Union of Hebrew Women for Equal Rights. Six hundred votes constituted less than 1% of the Yishuv’s total population at the time. They equaled just 2% of the eligible voters in the Yishuv and less than 3% of the votes cast.
But those 600 votes entitled the women’s party to five of the 314 seats in the assembly. Two other members of the union were elected on the slates of other factions, and seven other women entered the Assembly of Representatives, as the Yishuv’s legislature was called, on the lists of the labor parties. Together these 14 women constituted a women’s rights caucus in this forerunner of Israel’s Knesset. Paradoxically, they had been elected provisionally, before women had in fact been officially granted the right to vote and to serve in elective office. The Yishuv’s religious and Haredi communities opposed women’s suffrage widely. Had these women not been a salient presence in the legislature, it is quite likely that those rights, finally granted formally five years later, would not have been recognized for many years thereafter.

The women’s party was able to gain representation thanks to the proportional electoral system instituted by the Yishuv leadership. … read the rest at the Forward

The Next Prime Monster — “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

“I think you should wear white this winter,” Amir says to Tziporah. He rummages through the box of dress-up clothes and dons a homburg and a brown clip-on tie that matches his hair.

           illustration by Pepe Fainberg
     illustration by Pepe Fainberg

Tziporah is decked out in an orange paisley number with spaghetti straps, over which she’s draped a long, trailing, and somewhat ratty purple boa. “I think I am beautifulest this way,” she says, walking over to the child-high mirror on our living room wall and primping her curls.

Amir frowns and turns to me. “Haim, don’t you think she should wear white?”

Ilana has a doctor’s appointment, so I’ve come up from my basement office for half an hour to take charge of the mishpahton, the small pre-school for three-year-olds that Ilana runs in our living room.

“It’ll be easy,” she says at the door before she leaves. “Just give them a game, or read them a story.”

“I have something in mind,” I say.

Ilana takes her hand off the door handle and turns back to me. “Just let them play.”

“But I want to do something interesting,” I say. “ Continue reading The Next Prime Monster — “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Let Them Rage: Why Anti-Zionists Should Be Allowed to Run

Haim Watzman

If it weren’t the fact that the fracas at yesterday’s meeting of Israel’s Central Election Committee was theater rather than serious deliberation, I might be more upset about the decision to bar from contesting the coming election two of the three Arab slates represented in the current Knesset. Everyone there, both the right-wingers accusing the Arab parties of sedition and the representatives of said parties charging the Committee with racism, knew that the decision will almost certainly be overturned by the Supreme Court.

That’s what happened 2003, when the Committee sought to ban Balad (National Democratic Assembly), one of the two parties it banned yesterday. The other is the joint slate of Ra’am (United Arab List)/Ta’al (Arab Movement for Renewal).

As Ha’aretz’s Ze’ev Segel explains, the Central Election Committee was empowered by an amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset of 2002 to disqualify parties that act explicitly or implicitly in support of armed struggle against Israel. In its 2003 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that disqualification required a high standard of proof that the parties in question were in fact taking active measures to support armed struggle and that the advocacy of armed struggle against Israel was the party’s governing ideology. (Recommended: the Israel Democracy Institute’s position paper on the disqualification of parties, written by Mordechai Kremnitzer.)

Oddly enough, the language in question does not appear on the Knesset website’s version of the law and its amendments . . .

Read the rest on Jewcy–Comment there or here.