Party Switching in Israel

A Historical and Comparative Analysis

By Csaba Nikolenyi

Subjects: Israel Studies, Comparative Politics, Political Parties, Political Behavior, Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in Comparative Politics
Hardcover : 9781438491615, 239 pages, May 2023
Paperback : 9781438491608, 239 pages, November 2023

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Conceptual and Comparative Considerations

2. Kalanterism, the “Stinking Trick,” and the Evolution of Israel’s Anti-Defection Law

3. The Growing Incidence of Party Switching in Israel

4. “Acquire a Friend for Yourself!” The Rise of Collective Defections in the Knesset

5. The Preponderance of Pre-Electoral Party Switching

6. Between Government and Opposition: The Directionality of Exit

7. Does Defection Pay? The Electoral Consequences of Party Switching

8. Comparative Cases: Anti-Defections Laws and Their Consequences in India, New Zealand, and South Africa

Works Cited

Analyzes the history of legislative party switching and its regulation in the Israeli Knesset.


This is the first book about the politics of party switching, or floor crossing, better known as "kalanterism" in Israeli politics. The Israeli parliament adopted legislation in 1991 that imposed penalties on parliamentary defectors. However, as the book documents, the effect of this legislation was extremely puzzling: the frequency of party switches has increased over time, and most switches have taken the form of party splits making Israeli legislative parties increasingly less cohesive and united. Building on evidence from parliamentary debates, committee records and contemporary journalistic accounts, author Csaba Nikolenyi shows that notwithstanding these unexpected consequences, the Israeli anti-defection legislation proved to be an important tool that governments could use to divide their opposition and shore up their often fragile parliamentary base of support.

Csaba Nikolenyi is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies at Concordia University in Canada. He is the author of Institutional Design and Party Government in Post-Communist Europe and Minority Governments in India: The Puzzle of Elusive Majorities.


"Party Switching in Israel greatly adds to our knowledge of Israeli politics and invites important comparative questions. Although the detailed treatment of the subject of party defectors in multi-party parliamentary systems focuses on the case of Israel, Nikolenyi broadens the scope to include material on New Zealand, India, and South Africa. The material on the other countries does make the investigation comparative and definitely represents an important contribution to the literature on legislatures." — Harold M. Waller, McGill University