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It was long communicated that at least 61 votes are required for the confirmation of the Israeli government. In the end, it appears that 60 votes were sufficient - according to the BBC: "The new coalition was approved by 60 votes to 59, with one abstention."

What is the reason for the incorrect communications and what precisely do the Israeli laws say on this subject? How many votes are required to remove the government?

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The requirement is to win a vote of confidence in the Knesset, not 61 votes in particular. According to Israel's basic law:

  1. (d) When a Government has been formed, it shall present itself to the Knesset, shall announce the basic lines of its policy, its composition and the distribution of functions among the Ministers, and shall ask for an expression of confidence. The Government is constituted when the Knesset has expressed confidence in it, and the Ministers shall thereupon assume office.

Basic Laws of Israel: The Government

Because the Knesset is a 120-seat parliament, 61 votes is necessary to guarantee a majority. This figure was widely reported because a coalition of various small parties was required to form the government, and the parliamentary arithmetic in terms of member count was vital.

However, all that is required by law is a successful vote of confidence, which in this case was won 60-59 due to the abstention of one Knesset member. Unless otherwise stated, decisions in the Knesset are made by a majority of the members participating in voting:

  1. Save as otherwise provided by Law, the Knesset shall pass its decisions by a majority of those participating in the voting - those abstaining not being reckoned as participating - and the voting procedure shall be prescribed by the Rules.

Basic Laws of Israel: The Knesset

The government can be removed by a vote of no confidence, which does require an absolute majority of 61. These members also need to support the same alternative candidate, rather than just voting against the government.

  1. (a) The Knesset may adopt an expression of no confidence in the Government.

    (b) An expression of no confidence in the Government will be a decision adopted by the majority of the Members of Knesset to request that the President charge one of its members with the task of forming a Government.

    (c) If the Knesset has expressed no confidence in the Government, the Government shall be deemed to have resigned on the day of the expression of no confidence. The President will, within two days, charge the Knesset Member named in the decision with the task of forming a Government.

This wasn't always the case - in 1990 the government led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was brought down by a vote of no confidence won 60-55, with 5 abstentions, but this vote took place under the old Basic Law in place from 1968 to 1992 which only called for an "expression of non-confidence", rather than a constructive vote of no confidence as in the current law.

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  • Does "the majority of the Members of Knesset" mean that 60 votes would be sufficient if there were one empty seat?
    – phoog
    Jun 14 at 21:50
  • 1
    @phoog Exactly. It actually means "a majority of the members present and voting". Not a majority purely on the total seat-count. This is common in many parliamentary systems and has lead to some weird excesses in some countries. Like members that are very ill being brought to the parliament by ambulance just to vote, because otherwise their party would not be able to get a majority. Or a minority party pushing for a vote on a bill "right now" knowing that many members of the opposing parties are absent now and can't make their way back in time for the vote.
    – Tonny
    Jun 15 at 12:56
  • @Tonny "the majority of the Members of Knesset" doesn't mean "a majority of the members present and voting"; if they wanted to designate that majority they would have said "a majority of those participating in the voting" as they did in the other law.
    – phoog
    Jun 15 at 14:52
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All that is needed is a successful vote in the the Knesset, which has 120 members. If everyone votes, then a majority is 61. But in this case, one member (Said al-Harumi from Ra'am) abstained, so the vote was 60 to 59 - still a majority, although not an absolute one.

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  • Hello and welcome to politics stack exchange. Please check out the tour and the help center. Could you also please add why you think that all that is needed is a successful majority vote in the Knesset, because some people who don’t know much in Israeli politics might not understand that. Jun 14 at 10:14
  • This should probably have been a comment on the other answer, but it is useful in that it gives the name of the abstaining member, which the other does not. Jun 14 at 18:54
  • This seems like the perfect answer to such a simple question.
    – Fattie
    Jun 14 at 21:41
  • 2
    @Fattie My question was not simple because I required a reference to the Israeli law and this answer did not address the issue at all... Neither the question about removing the government was answered.
    – user
    Jun 15 at 7:34

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