From this answer on this question (Emphasis mine):

The change in leadership, in this case, is coming about after an election. Legislative elections were held in March 2021, but no party reached the 61-seat threshold needed to obtain a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. This is not a surprise - no party has ever reached this threshold.

Further, the answers this question suggest that Israel has a highly fractured polity with frequent premature elections.

This is highly surprising to me.

Other countries with similar parliamentary democracy systems (such as the UK, Japan and India) frequently have full term/ majority.

Further, given the context in which Israel was formed, it would (intuitively) make sense for most people to agree on political issues.

Given the above, why does Israel always have such divided legislatures?

  • 20
    Because they're not a two-party system? (and their election system doesn't favor it). a TON of other democratic nations do not have this massive flaw
    – Hobbamok
    Jun 7, 2021 at 10:02
  • 11
    "given the context in which Israel was formed, it would (intuitively) make sense for most people to agree on political issues". What? Why would that make sense? And even if the citizens of a country do agree on most issues, that does not really have an impact on the fracturedness of parliaments. Politics is always about those issues where people do not agree. Things that everybody agree upon do not need discussion.
    – Simon
    Jun 7, 2021 at 12:31
  • @Hobbamok That's true. But I was under the impression that even multi-party systems tend to have a single dominant party/ coalition at a given time. I now realize that their election system prevents that kind of dynamic.
    – user0
    Jun 7, 2021 at 15:34
  • 3
    @Simon Politics does tend to be focused on disagreement, but certain circumstances (such as war) tend to emphasize unity and agreement. I was referring to the fact that Israel was created immediately following the Nazi-era in a region which is mostly hostile to it (whether the hostility is justified or not is a different matter) and have fought multiple wars in that region. After all, talk about leaders stoking international tensions to shore up domestic support is pretty common.
    – user0
    Jun 7, 2021 at 15:40
  • 2
    @DevashsihKaushik "Dominant coalition" normally means that no party has a majority, which is why it's a coalition. Consider that multi-party systems just mathematically make it much more difficult for any single party to have a majority. If only two parties can win a significant number of seats, then a very slim margin can grant a majority. If just 3 parties can win significant numbers, then the "even" share is 33% each; one party needs a massive margin of 17% above that to achieve outright majority. It gets even harder with 4 or more parties "in the running".
    – Ben
    Jun 8, 2021 at 0:01

3 Answers 3


Israel's elections are based on nation-wide proportional representation. Specifically, that means there are no local districts in which candidates run.

Your assertion that many parliamentary democracies often have a single party which commands a majority actually has more to do with single-ballot plurality-rule elections to which Duverger's law applies:

The simple-majority single-ballot system favours the two-party system.

Indeed, the UK, Japan* and India** all have a form of first past the post in national elections.

And indeed, many other countries that have a form of proportional representation do have many parties in their legislature(s). For example:

Given the above, why does Israel always have such divided legislatures?

Because Israel does not have an election system that favors a two-party system, there is no tendency for the political landscape to develop into a two-party system. And because there are many more parties which have the ability to get some seats, it's much more difficult if not impossible for any one party to get an overall majority.

* Japan is slightly different from the other FPTP countries because they also have seats according to proportional representation.

** India is a bit of a counter example to Duverger's law because there are many parties, but they are often allied in a larger coalitions.

  • In fact, Israel with a single electoral district would be less affected than, say, Spain. In Spain there are 52 electoral districts, and many of those are so small that only one or two of the biggest parties have electoral options there, because they only elect two seats. OTOH, the division in district gives better chances to regionalist parties who may concentrate its vote in a few or even one district, and that usually only get a few seats. Without those, there would be only 5 parties at Spain's Parliament (the same way that DUP, SNP and Sinn Fein increase parties to from 2 to 5 at the UK).
    – SJuan76
    Jun 6, 2021 at 8:26
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    @SJuan76 are you sure those parties wouldn't get seats in a proportional representation system? In the 2019 UK GE the SNP got 3.88% of the popular vote, the DUP got 0.76%, Sinn Fein got 0.57% and the UUP got 0.29% (those are just the regional parties with enough votes under PR). With 650 seats you'd need only about 0.154% of the popular vote per seat. Of course the voting dynamic may change under PR because all of a sudden you don't have to think about which parties stand a chance in your district.
    – JJJ
    Jun 6, 2021 at 12:46
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    The voting threshold (5% in many countries, including Germany) affects the number of parties (Netherlands 0.667% (essentially none - the "natural" threshold - for one seat), Spain 0% (Senate) and 3%), Brazil 1.5% (356 members and currently two parties are below the threshold (due to some extra rules?))). Your examples are from the lower end. Jun 7, 2021 at 9:32
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    To add another example, even Canada, which has two "big" parties, but a mix of third, fourth, and fifth, etc, options, has had a minority government for about a third of its history - roughly one in three elections are decided without a majority winner, and moreso recently (about half of the years since 2000 have been under a minority government here). Minority governments are nice because no single party can wield absolute control - it forces government to act only when enough people can hammer out a plan that at least not everyone hates.
    – J...
    Jun 7, 2021 at 16:33
  • That's because Canada keeps electing (relative to the Overton window) solidly right-wing parties with their 40% voteshare, as the left splinters into 30%s or less. The right was also splitting, but they put aside enough differences to merge the two right parties. Within two elections, this led to an almost 10-year reign. Speaking of minority governments, electoral reform died on election night 2015 as they overdid ABC strategic voting and gave a majority.
    – obscurans
    Jun 8, 2021 at 23:06

The UK uses first-past-the-post, which would usually push the political landscape to a two party system. For various reasons, this didn't quite happen. But still, FPTP is very likely to produce majorities in parliament. For example, in the last election the tories gained a huge majority in parliament while only getting about 41% of the votes.

Japan has a mixed system, including some amount of proportional representation. But like India, they have one particular party who for historical reasons encompasses a significant share of the political landscape, and thus makes single-party majorities normal.

Israel uses a fully proportional system, and for that it is perfectly normal to not have single-party majorities. Germany (Federal Republic of), which essentially has a proportional system, too, and roughly the same age as Israel, also only once had a single-party majority in federal parliament (CDU in 1957).

So to summarize, there is no particular reason to look into specifics of Israeli politics, their political system alone explains the absence of single-party majorities.

  • "For various reasons": I think I recall another answer here stating that within each constituency, it's effectively a two-party system, it's just that which two parties those are vary across the country as a whole.
    – Bobson
    Jun 8, 2021 at 16:33

Given the context in which Israel was formed, it would (intuitively) make sense for most people to agree on political issues

In Israel we say: with a population of 9 million, there are 9 million different defense, treasury and prime ministers.

why does Israel always have such divided legislatures?

Because 80% of the population are Jews and others of which

  • 50% Secular
  • 15% Religous
  • 15% Orthodox

Among the Orthodox Jews, their vote split, European Jews will vote for a different party then Jews who came from the Arab world. So does the secular Jews, Russian and Ukrainian Jews are likely to vote for Yisrael Beiteinu while European secular Jews for the Israeli Labor Party and Yesh Atid.

Other countries with similar parliamentary democracy systems (such as the UK)

Wrong! unlike the UK, winner doesn't take all because there isn't a "district election", rather a nationwide election where every vote counts.

  • Good answer, just a few factual corrections; #1, about 74% of Israeli citizens are Jewish. #2 the 15% religious Jews mentioned also consider themselves Orthodox, the difference in American terminology would be Orthodox vs Ultra-Orthodox, or Religious Zionist vs Ultra-Orthodox.
    – Jacob3
    Jun 8, 2021 at 12:53
  • @Jacob3 I'm an Israeli, there are the Orthodox Jews (Haredim) and there are the national religious Jews also called "Zionist religious". These two groups differ massively. The first one doesn't go to the army, their economic contribution is 0 while the 2nd group leads go to the fighting divisions and are educated in the sense they go to Universities and work like everyone else. 80% are Jews and Others. I didn't say only Jews. The others are of partial Jewish ancestry (Jewish dad, spouses of Jews, etc...) Nov 22, 2021 at 18:55
  • Haredim are called Ultra-Orthodox in American terminology. Religious Zionists are Orthodox as well (just ask one of them). That's how they can both pray together, rely on each other's Karshut & Marriage certification, and the Israeli Rabbinate can be comprised of both Haredi and Zionist Rabbis, since both adhere to the Halacha of Orthodox Judaism. #2 Your proclamation that the economic contribution of the Haredim is 0, seemingly stems from a fusion of extreme ignorance and hatred towards them. Never say this on any community on earth.
    – Jacob3
    Nov 23, 2021 at 9:29
  • @Jacob3 the question was about Israel not USA. And you are right, considering they have an average of 9 children per woman, their contibution is a loss and not a 0. Thats a fact known and not assumption. Benjamin Netanyahu as treasury minister improved this and their work rate has somewhat increased but far away from the rest. Nov 23, 2021 at 15:07

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