MK Amir Peretz (Hatnua) has submitted a bill to return the direct elections system for Knesset elections Tuesday, saying that he was "afraid" of seeing Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) assume the role of Prime Minister in the event Jewish Home gains a majority during the next elections.
"I don't see Bennett having a chance under the personal elections system," Peretz explained to Kol B'rama radio. "[But], contrary to that, the electoral system today means that a party with a few seats today can have 20 seats tomorrow, that deals can be struck with the formation of a coalition, and then suddenly he's Prime Minister."
"Under direct elections, the 'glass ceiling' for Bennett will be 20% [of the vote]," Peretz added. "No one will give the State of Israel into his hands - no one wants extremism like that."
Peretz also warned against making Jewish Home the ruling party - period. (Currently, the ruling party is Likud - ed.), claiming Bennett has a "radical agenda" and is thirsty for power over remarks the Minister has made over "sending troops into every [terrorist's] home" to stamp out the waves of violence radiating throughout the country.
"What does he think this is - child's play?" Peretz asked. "Does Bennett threatening civilians give him confidence? Or does he think that if the Jewish State Law passes that people will feel better about standing at bus stops?"
"Just the opposite," he fired. "If the Jewish State Law passes with [MK Ze'ev] Elkin's version of the text, then it legitimizes extremists to do more uncontrollable things [. . .] it sends a message to those individuals who think they can start their own nation and do criminal acts to that end that they could fight for [that] in any way."
Peretz's comments highlights simmering tensions over the possibility of new elections, after a coalition crisis erupted because of the Jewish State Law.
The 'Jewish State Law' is comprised of two bills by three MKs: Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), Yariv Levin (Likud), and Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home). Both bills, which are similar in their principles, effectively raise the Jewish influence on the legal system, elevating it over the "democratic" elements of Israel's identity as a "democratic and Jewish state."
The bills thrust the coalition into crisis, however, after the government decided Sunday upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's insistence that all coalition MKs and ministers will be bound by coalition discipline in the vote, and must vote in favor of it - despite vocal opposition from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), who have vowed to vote against it.
If elections do result from Livni and Lapid contravening Netanyahu's dictum, Bennett could be a front-runner for the Prime Minister; several polls over the past several months have shown that he has gained appeal with the Israeli public.
In October, a set of differing polls between the Knesset Channel and Channel 10 revealed that, collectively, Bennett's approval rating is at 38% - higher than Netanyahu's. By contrast, just 12% would vote for him as prime minister - a difference that could work against Bennett in the event of a reversion to direct elections.
Direct elections in Israel have only been held three times: May 1996, May 1999, and the special election of prime minister in February 2001. The switch to the direct system was enabled only through a 1992 change to Israel's Basic Law: The Government, which was then reverted back to the electoral system in 2001.