Israel Studies Seminar: Competition between MPs and GMs on Policy Outcomes through Legislation – Israel as a Test case

Convener: Professor Yaacov Yadgar

Speaker: Dr Tamar Calahorra (Oxford)



Politicians, whether they be ordinary MPs and or government ministers (GMs), compete on the ability to influence policy outcomes. After elections and the formation of government, they do that through legislation (“Competition through Legislation”), in parliamentary democracies that allow such competition. This is a two-stage competition: the initiation of a bill – drafting the bill and filing it with parliament’s administration – and the actual legislation of the bill. It is not always competition between two conflicting policy goals. Sometimes both MPs and the GMs propose very similar bills, which wish to advance the same policy goal in similar ways, and sometimes they propose bills with conflicting goals. It is an unfair and unequal competition, as usually the rules of the legislative procedure usually favor the government’s bills (GBs) over those of the MPs (PMBs).

In most countries where competition through legislation is theoretically possible it does not take place in fact. In Israel, it does. What makes Israel interesting and possibly unique is not only the enormous number of bills initiated, according to the Knesset’s National Legislation Data, (6642 bills during 4 years of the 20th Knesset, 2015-2019) but also the fact that 90% of the bills were Private Members’ Bills (PMBs), and only 9% were Government Bills. Even more interesting is the fact that 88% of the PMBs (5317) did not even make it to the preliminary stage of legislation, and only 4% (246) actually passed the third reading and became law. The Government was more successful, with 57% of its bills becoming law (359 out of 595), but still, in total, only 9% of the bills proposed during the 20th Knesset actually became law.

The Data further shows a consistent rise in the total number of bills that had been submitted to the Knesset over the years, with an exponential rise in the number of PMBs, from less than a dozen in the 1st Knesset in 1949 to more than 6000 the 20th Knesset. The number of GBs, has more than doubled to almost 600. Until the 80’s (10th Knesset), the majority of the submitted bills were GBs but since then, a decisive majority of the bills is PMBs. The government has grown less successful in legislating GBs over the years: from 92% in average until the 80’s to 55% in the 2000’s. The total success rate of legislation, of all origins, has dropped from 87% in average in the 50’s to 10% in average since the 90’s.

About the Speaker: 

Dr. Tamar Calahorra is an Academic Visitor at OSGA. She holds D.Phil in Law from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is a certified Israeli lawyer and has worked for 18 years in the State’s Attorney General’s office at the Legal Counseling and Legislation Department. Her former research focused on tort law in general and specifically on tort law as enforcement mechanism by the state in cases of harm to public interests. Her current research focuses on the legislative procedure in Israel in comparative perspective.