[MUSIC] So, how does it work? How do you bring together so many groups, most of them, with very little experience with democracy in their background, and still maintain a functioning, legitimate, and somewhat stable regime. If you follow the news from Israel, you already know that this is not an easy task. In the country's short history, most of its governments have not completed their intended tenures. While election campaigns should take place every four years, between 1948 and 2016, 20 election campaigns have already taken place, making the average survival span of an Israeli government a little over three years with several of the recent ones serving for less than two years before they collapsed. Understanding our political system is difficult for most Israelis, so it must be an even more complicated mission for those of you who attempt to follow it from afar. It is for that reason that I have asked professor Gideon Rahat from the department of Political Science at a Hebrew University to walk us through this complex system. Professor Rahat's research field are comparative politics and Israeli political system. His studies have looked at political parties in Israel and abroad. Electoral reforms, the personalization of politics, and candidate selection methods. Rahat is also a senior fellow at the Israeli Democracy Institute. His book, Democracy within Parties, Candidate Selection Methods and Their Political Consequences, written in collaboration with professor Reuven Hazan, was published by Oxford University Press. >> So, the topic today is Israel's political system so let me start. First, we have to talk about some very important basic characteristics of they system and then we will move step by step from society to politics. But first, let me talk about some basic characteristics, look at them and put them aside. So, the three basic characteristics of the Israeli system is first. The Israeli system is a parliamentary system. Second, Israel is a country that is run according to the logic of the unitary order. And the third characteristic is the lack, or maybe not, of a codified and rigid constitution. So let's start with the parliamentary regime. So what is a parliamentary regime? What you can see in the slide is a very simple, Comparison of parliamentary regimes, and presidential regimes. Those of you who live in Europe, except for France, are familiar with parliamentary regimes. All of your democracies are parliamentary. However when you look at America, United States, and all of the other countries, except maybe Canada, the other systems they are presidential. So therefore, let me explain the main difference between the two. The parliamentary regime is based mainly on merging the executive and legislative branches. That is the voters as you can see, elect the parliament. The parliament on its turn, elects the government, the executive. And because the parliament elects the executive, the parliament can also oust the executive, replace the executive. So this is about the merger ring of powers. Presidential regime, on the other hand as you can see, the voters elect the executive branch, the legislative branch. And these branches in a real democracy what they do all the time is as you can always look at American politics and see there they are clashing. Many times they have to come to compromises in order to rule. The two main differences here as you can see the executive in a parliamentary regime is not elected directly but only by parliament and the parliament can oust the executive. This is the main difference between these two kinds of regimes. And as I said in Israel we have a parliamentary regime. A second point that I want to make is the unitary order. All of the political authority in a unitary order like Israel and some many other countries. All the political authority belongs to the central government. Now the government can give powers to lower levels, like the local municipal level. But this power is given by the central government, and can be taken by the central government. It is not It is different from all of these federal regimes like United States, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, in which regional government have real powers that belongs to it. And you also have to remember that Israel have no regional government. Israel has no regional government, only two levels of government. National government and local government. So if you look at Israel, not only that it's a unitary order but it's a highly centralized unitary order, where most of the power is in the hands of the national government. Okay, so we said that Israel is a parliamentary regime. We said that it's a unitary order. And now we will go to the third element that I want to talk about then put aside Is whether Israel have a constitution. And the answer is yes and no, no and yes. Depends who you ask. Basically, the elected Constitutional Assembly, elected in 1949, when the state of Israel was established. Decided that the parliament will legislate the constitution incrementally, basic law after basic law, chapter by chapter. But yet until these days indeed we have 12 basic laws but no decision was made that really declared that these 12 basic laws are the constitution. We are still in the process. And most of these laws are not protected from amendment by a plurality, by a simple majority. These are not rigid laws. Most of them are equal to regular laws, and those that are protected are really protected from change by a very low threshold. Yet there was always a constitution in terms of general rules and norms. And this constitution was like other, non-written or non-codified constitutions like United Kingdom, for example, build on norms, regular laws, court verdicts. Yet since the 90s, in a process or in a phenomena we call the constitutional revolution, the courts in Israel started to behave as though there is a codified constitution. And the courts in Israel these days, the Supreme Court is, from time to time, is conducting what we call judicial review. It tells the legislator, the Israeli Knesset, that a specific law or an article from a specific law is unconstitutional and therefore cannot be adopted as a law. So the answer is, yes, Israeli has a constitution, yet this is not clearly a codified and rigid constitution. So until now we put aside three important issues, Israel is a parliamentary regime, a unitary order, and Israel has a constitution. But as we saw, this is quite a problematic situation in which it is still unclear what exactly is the constitution and how rigid, how protected it is. What is the status of the constitution vis a vis other laws? So now let's start with our journey from society to politics. Okay, so the lecture plan is about four steps. First I'll look really quickly at Israeli society. Then we move and look how Israeli society is translated, is represented by different political parties. Then we will look at the electoral system, how it translates the Israeli society through the electoral system into a multi party system. And how from this multi party system we have government, what we call coalition government, government that include several political parties. So let's start our journey with Israeli society. Israeli society is a heterogenic society. And there many social rifts, or social cleavages, or many different social groups that are relevant to politics and that are in conflict with each other over their identity, interests, norms, and values. And what you see on the slide are the five most important cleavages in Israeli society. First it is the national cleavage between the Jewish majority, about 75% of the population, vis a vis the Arab or Palestinian majority. These are the two identities of this population that compose about 20% of the population. And this cleavage is very deep. It originates from war, before the state was established between the two communities. And it is still the deepest cleavage in Israel politics. The next cleavage is about religion. Now it's not about religions. But it's about the internal conflict between Jews, between the more religious Jews, the ultra-orthodox Jews, the national religious Jews, on the one hand, and the secular Jews on the other hand. Yet in between we have a large group that is kind of a bridge between the group, the group of traditional Jews, Jews who practice some but not all of the religious tradition. So that's why they are called of course traditional, and so this is a very important cleavage. It is a very deep cleavage between both extremes, both poles. But in the middle these traditional Jews are kind of a bridge, kind of moderating this cleavage. The third cleavage that we can find, or a third rift, is between Mizrachi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews. Jews came to Israel from all over the world. There are differences between the different communities that have to do with the different origins. Yet the most important or the most prominent issue is on the one hand the Mizrachi Jews that come mainly from Asia and North Africa and the Ashkenazi Jews that come from Europe and America. These two groups are different in their religious practice, sometimes in their political orientation, in their norms, and very important, also in the way they perceive Zionism. For the Ashkenazi, for most of them Zionism is a revolution, a revolution against their family, against their environment, religious environment, Ultra Orthodox environment, highly religious environment, a modern revolution. For most of the Mizrachi, Zionism was seen as a continuity of tradition. And these two different notions sometimes clash with each other in politics and society. The fourth cleavage is ideology, the cleavage between hawks and doves, basically about foreign affairs and security. And let's put it in a more precise manner, it's mostly about the fate of the territories, especially those territories that were taken in 1967, and especially Judea and Samaria. The Hawks think that Judea and Samaria should be kept under the rule of Israel and one day maybe would be part of Israel. This is the greater Israel idea, while the doves support the two state solution, a compromise between Israel and the Palestinians. So this is another important cleavage. The fifth cleavage is between new immigrants Mainly those that come from the former Soviet Union, and the veteran immigrants. Many people in Israel are veteran immigrants, people who came from other countries, but live here for decades, and those who were born in Israel. The cleavage between, if you wish, the newcomers and the people who were there before. And this is also a cleavage that is important and relevant for politics. So these five different cleavages, these five different cuts through society are important for us. Because they are translated through voting behavior, through specific political parties into Israeli politics. So let's move now and look how it is translated into politics through political parties. So in Israel we have many, many different political parties. What you see on the slide, you can see the percentage of votes that each political party won in the elections. You can see that, in Israeli politics, we have many political parties. No party won, in the last election, more than 25% of the votes, and most of the parties, as you can see, win even less. And these parties actually represent different social groups, explicitly and sometimes more implicitly, but they are reflecting the number. And the spread of the support between the parties reflects Israeli society in the sense of being composed of many different minorities or groups, small groups that are a minority. So let me show you, for examples, there are some parties that represent social groups directly. For example, Shas party. Shas is the Jewish party, ultra-religious party, ultra-Orthodox party, composed of only Mizrachi Jews and also addressing the Mizrachi grievances the Mizrachi voters, it's a hawkish party. And it is a party of veteran immigrants and natives. So you can see that Shas is specifically representing a certain social group. The second example is Ra'am. Ra'am is an Arab party, Arab-Muslim party, a Dovish party. And as you can see, it is addressing a specific group, the Arab and among them are the Muslims. Because among the Arabs there are also Christians and Jews, for example. The third example is the Yisrael Betenu. Yisrael Betenu is a party that tries to address a wider public. Yet, it is based on Jews, secular Jews, hawkish, and especially on new immigrants from former Soviet Union. So you can see that some of the parties represent specific social groups. Other parties in Israeli politics, and especially the two historically large parties, are aggregative parties. They are representative of, or they try to be, of many different social groups. These are the Labor and the Likud. So they try, within their ranks, to put representatives of religious groups, the Arab groups, and many other social groups in order to try to capture a larger part of society. So we have, in Israeli politics, some representation by parties, and some representation of this complex society through political parties. Now, how do we get this representation through a specific filter, the electoral system? And electoral system represent votes into seats, the preferences of people into representation in the parliament, the Israeli parliament called the Knesset, that is composed of 120 representatives. The elections in Israel are taking place in a single nationwide district. All of Israel is one nationwide district. And any party that wins more than 3.25% of the votes wins representation, wins seats in the Israeli Knesset. Now what does it mean? It means that, what does proportional representation mean? Proportional representation systems are quite common in Europe. Yet, in the Anglo-Saxon world, United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom of course, they are not in use. What they use there is, what we call majoritarian systems. So the proportional representation system that is used in Israel, the basic idea is that the share of the party seats in parliament reflects its number of votes. So for example, if a party wins 10% of the votes, than it suppose to win 12 seats in the 120 member parliament in the Knesset. If a party wins 25% of the vote, how many seats will it win? No not 25, 30 seats. 30 out of 120 is 25%. And if a party wins 50% of the votes, how many seats will it win? Now you're right, it's 60 seats,. But this never happened in Israel. No party in Israel's history ever won a majority of the seats. And therefore, all governments in Israel need to be, as you will see later, coalition governments. Governments that include more than one single party. But first, let's look at the results of the last elections. The 2015 elections for the 20th Knesset. What you see here in one column is the number of votes each party won, and in brackets, you see the percentages. And you can see the number of seats, and in brackets you can see the percentages of seats. So you can see that the percentages of seats and votes are not identical. They cannot be identical, because at the end of the day, the parliament is much smaller than the population. But nevertheless, you can see that it's very close. So a party wins more or less its fair share. Or proportional share of seats in Parliament. The only parties that do not win sit in Parliament what we see there in the category of others, the row before the last row. These are the parties that didn't pass the electoral threshold, the 3.25% threshold, in the last elections, okay. So the result is that the Israeli highly complex society. Heterogenic society that is full with social groups is represented by many parties through the proportional representation system and what the result is, multi party system. What you see here is the multi party system after the previous election for the 2013 Knesset. Each color represents different parties and sometimes even some parties together. So you can see a lot of parties and not only a lot of parties, but you can see that the power, the number of seats is spread among these parties. Now if you want to build a government, you need a majority, you need majority support. This means that some of these parties, those parties that hold a majority of Knesset that is 61 seats or more have to come together. And to build what we call a governing coalition. And, what you can see here is the new coalition that was established after the 2015 election headed by this guy in the middle. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he's heading a coalition, what we call a minimal winning coalition of 61 seats that is composed, as you can see of five different political parties. His own party, Likud, Kulanu party which is basically built on a person who splitted from Likud, a politician who splitted from Likud. The Jewish home party of the National Religious Jews, Shas party of the Mizrahi Orthodox Jews and United Torah Judaism of the Ultra-orthodox Ashkenazi Jews. So all of these parties come together and rule together and why do they come together? They come together because they agree, they make an agreement and in this agreement, they decide on policies, on things that they will do together. And things that they will not promote because some parties are against it, some of the members. And they decide on the location of budgets and they decide on the allocation of the government position of ministries. So the government is composed of ministers, around 20 and the ministries are allocated according to the more or less. According to the proportional share of each party within the coalition. And this government compose of many different political parties supposed to have majority in parliament because it is supported by parties that have 61 seats. So now we'll look back at our lecture plan, so we start with a very complex heterogenic society that is represented by many different political parties. Some of them represent specific groups in society, and some of them try to represent as many groups as they can. All of these competing elections, and proportional representation elections. And gets more or less their share of the votes translated into seats in parliament and then, in parliament, 61 or more seats or parties. That hold 61 or more seats are coming together and creating a coalition government. So we can see the translation of society into politics and this is the main feature, the main important feature of the Israeli system. Putting aside the three important other features, that I mentioned at the beginning is what being a parliamentary system, as well as being a unitary country. A country in which power is centralized and Israel having or not having or having some kind of a constitution. >> Thank you Gidi for making the system both it's advantage and it's fault so much more accessible. So what do you think about the Israeli political system? In what ways is it similar to the one you know from your home countries, how is it different? Many political experts believe that the Israeli system should be transformed. That shifting to a system aching that of the United States' presidential system would make Israeli politics more stable. Others are concerned that switching to such a presidential system would remove the checks and balances the current political system has managed to put in place. They are worried that the different system would deny Israeli minority groups their voices, and their ability to effect decision making, and the shaping of this emerging society. What do you think? As we have learned today, one of the most prominent disputes around which Israeli political map. It's organized concern the way the Arab Israeli conflict should be treated. While in other countries, the right left divide deals mostly with social economic issues. In Israel, this divide centers on Israel's conflict with it's neighboring countries and the way this conflict should be resolved. Therefore, to understand Israel's internal issue better we should take into consideration. The country's place in the Middle East, it's wars and peace agreements. Our next class will be devoted to this issue, I'm looking forward to having you all with us.