Election Reform Bill Passes First Reading on Way to Law

An electoral reform bill which would replace the present system of proportional representation passed its first reading in the Knesset Tuesday by an impressive 69-37 majority.

The bill will need the votes of at least 61 of the 120 Knesset members on its second and third readings in order to become law. It would institute the direct election of Knesset members on a regional basis.

The reform is considered long overdue by many in Israel’s legal establishment and the political community.

The fragmented vote arising from the present system has prevented any single party from governing, except in coalition with disparate and often recalcitrant splinter parties.

The reform is fiercely opposed by the religious parties, which represent a small minority of the electorate and owe their Knesset representation to the present system,

Under that system, Israelis do not vote for their legislators but for party lists. Knesset seats are then apportioned according to the number of votes each party wins.

The religious bloc and their right-wing allies suffered several setbacks in the Knesset. Two Orthodox-sponsored amendments to the Law of Return were defeated.

Also rejected, by a vote of 58-53, was a right-wing measure to reduce the prison terms of members of a Jewish terrorist group.

That bill was backed by almost the entire Likud, including Premier Yitzhak Shamir. Justice Minister Avraham Sharir, a member of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, joined the Labor Party in voting against it.

Likud won a victory when the Knesset decided by 51-49 in favor of state control over the elections of Histadrut, the labor federation.

The Knesset voted 67-16 to elect retired Supreme Court Justice Miriam Ben-Porat the new state comptroller.

Because of the heavy volume of news, to day’s JTA Daily News Bulletin has been expanded to six pages.

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