PM Olmert, Min. Lieberman Will Push Electoral, Gov't Reform

The proposed reform legislation will be placed before the Knesset. A cabinet debate on the issue is due to take place Wednesday.

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Nissan Ratzlav-Katz,

Prime Minister Olmert and Minister Lieberman
Prime Minister Olmert and Minister Lieberman

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman have agreed to sponsor a bill changing Israel's system of government. The proposed 
Changing the system is in the national interest...." - Prime Minister Olmert
reform legislation will be placed before the Knesset for all three required readings during the legislature's upcoming winter session. A cabinet debate on the issue is due to take place Wednesday.

The bill will be submitted in coordination with the Chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson (Kadima). The Law Committee is responsible for reviewing and possibly amending the legislation following its first Knesset reading, before it returns to parliament for a final two votes. If the bill is approved by a majority of the Knesset Members in all three readings, it then becomes law.

Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel met with Lieberman and MK Ben-Sasson on Monday to discuss the issue in anticipation of the cabinet debate. A statement released by the Prime Minister's Office said that Yehezkel would act to garner coalition support for the bill.

Minister Lieberman, MK Ben-Sasson and Secretary Yehezkel agreed upon four factors to be taken into account in the current electoral reform: regime stability, the government's ability to rule, the Knesset's effectiveness and the responsibility of parliamentary representatives toward their voters. In an effort to achieve wide support for the bill, its sponsors will focus on the proposal to limit the use of no-confidence votes, on raising the the minimum vote threshold for parties to enter the Knesset, on barring ministers and deputy ministers from holding seats in parliament (known as "the Norwegian Law"), and related specific proposals.

Prime Minister Olmert said, "There is no dispute that the current Israeli system of government greatly obstructs the functioning of the government and is harmful for regime stability. Changing the system is in the national interest and I intend to make an intense personal effort to bring that about."

Minister Lieberman said, "I am confident in the ability of the coalition to pass the law changing the system of government by the end of the Knesset's winter session, which will ensure regime stability in the State of Israel."

Lieberman is hoping to convince other party heads to pass the initial draft of his bill on condition that they will have input in the creation of the final version. The law in its final form would be approved by a committee with members of every political party, according to Lieberman's plan.

Referring to previous Knesset committee discussions regarding electoral reform, MK Prof. Ben-Sasson said, "The efforts of the [Constitution, Law and Justice] committee during the last session and the present one have produced initial results.... It is my intention to complete the process on time and bring about a representative and stable government for the State of Israel, with the support of the majority of parliamentary factions."

In October 2006, ahead of Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party joining the government, the cabinet approved a proposal for electoral reform put forward by then-opposition MK Lieberman. In a 12-11 vote, the minister's agreed to bring the Yisrael Beiteinu bill before the Knesset alongside a Kadima-sponsored proposal for changing the current system of governance. At the time, Lieberman stated that one of the conditions for his joining the coalition was that the government support legislation to change the electoral system.
One of the conditions for [Lieberman] joining the coalition was that legislation be passed to change the system of government.

The proposed legislation approved by the governing coalition in 2006 included, according to its original text: "a presidential system with total separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.... The ministers will not be Knesset members, and the Knesset will thus be able to dedicate its work to legislation and parliamentary review over the government.... The Knesset will be able to fire the prime minister by a 2/3 Knesset majority (80 MKs), but will not be able to dissolve a sitting government - thus guaranteeing governmental stability for four years."

In a poll taken in July 2007, the Kivun (Trend, Direction) Research Institute found that 66% of the Jewish populace in Israel supports political reform that would give Israel more of a presidential system. In 1996 Israel implemented direct election of the prime minister alongside proportional representation, but revoked the direct election of the prime minister in 2001.






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