All About Splits

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With the real possibility existing that neither political bloc will receive the sixty-one seats needed to form a governing coalition, the search has begun for members of the Knesset willing to abandon their party and switch to the other side. This phenomenon, referred to as 'crossing the floor' in parliamentary democracies, is possible but would be governed by both laws and Knesset house rules.

Flash 90

Party split from a joint list: A number of the slates elected to the twenty-third Knesset are actually joint lists made up of a number of independent parties. If an independent party decides to split from its list after the elections it will not face any sanctions. For example, if the Gesher party, headed by Orly Levy, decides to leave the joint list of Labor-Meretz-Gesher it will not face any sanctions. Such a move would be treated as a party splitting (as opposed to individual defections). In fact, the newly independent group would then either become an independent faction – or it could join an existing list already in the Knesset. Parties that decide to split do not face sanctions. 

An additional possibility is that one-third of the MKs elected to the Knesset on a particular list decide to break away. Such a move (that also must include a minimum of two MKs) will also be defined as a list that split into two independent factions and individual MKs who decided to defect.

In fact, the break-away MKs can either form new factions or join an existing one. And what about possible sanctions? They will be able to join the government and run in the next elections, but, if the split takes place in the first two years of the Knesset's term, the new faction will not be eligible for public funding usually available to parties.

Defectors will not serve as ministers or deputy ministers: A split of a single MK or a number of individual MKs from a party (for example a few Blue and White MKs) – would be considered 'defectors' and they would face significant sanctions. They would be unable to serve as ministers or deputy ministers in the current Knesset, run in the next elections with a party represented in the current Knesset, establish a new faction or join an existing one. Nevertheless a defector will be able to fill all parliamentary roles, as per the Knesset house rules, such as chairing or serving in any of the Knesset committees.

For whom would it be the easiest to split? MK Orly Levy or the Telem Party (headed by Moshe ‘Bogie’ Yaalon) would appear to be the most likely candidates. Any individual MK from the opposition bloc can defect and vote for the government, but they will not be able to be appointed to a role in the current government or be eligible to serve as a candidate in the next election on a list of any of the parties represented in the current Knesset.