Israelis abroad should be allowed to vote (HAŽARETZ NEWS OP-ED) By Moshe Ben-Atar 04/16/12)
HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE
HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-Top
About three years ago, when I was director general of the Israel
Zionist Council, Uzi Arad and I appointed a strategic team to examine
the relationship between Israelis living abroad and the state. One of
the recommendations of the resulting policy paper was to extend the
right to vote in Israeli elections to citizens who have lived
overseas for up to 10 years.
According to a study that we commissioned, scores of Western
countries, including the United States and many European nations,
extend suffrage to their expatriate citizens, as do many Asian and
African countries. American or Dutch citizens, for example, can live
in Israel for years while continuing to participate in U.S. or Dutch
The right to vote should be extended to all, irrespective of
religion, race or sex, as provided by Israel´s Declaration of
Independence. Such a policy would show a desire by the state to bring
all of its citizens closer to their homeland, to invest an effort in
tightening their ties to Israeli society and the state, and to
encourage their return in the future.
An increasing number of Israelis live abroad. The state can no longer
ignore the need to reexamine its relationship with this important
group. Future policy must focus on maintaining their links to the
country, and the right to vote is part of this. We concluded that
Israeli citizens who have been living abroad for up to 10 years and
who have declared that they want to return to Israel in the future
should be allowed to vote in elections.
The former cabinet minister and MK Shulamit Aloni was an important
member of our team; she participated in all of the discussions that
formed the basis of its recommendations. Her input regarding the
ethical and public implications of the recommendations were critical.
Other members of the team included Maj. Gen. (ret. ) Shlomo Gazit;
Brig. Gen. (ret. ) Ephraim Lapid; former Ambassador Yitzhak Meir;
Brig. Gen. (ret ). Azriel Nevo; and Prof. Sergio Della Pergola.
It is with regret, however, that I must report that the practical
recommendations drafted by the panel with the highest interests of
the nation in mind are today the subject of partisan squabbling that
detracts from the noble intentions of their authors.
I believe that Aloni´s regrettable decision to join the call recently
issued by Israeli intellectuals against giving voting rights to
Israelis living abroad stemmed from the right wing´s co-optation of
the proposal for their own purposes.
The proposal could be amended to include only Israelis who have lived
abroad for five years or less.
This is a call to Israelis who are a part of us. We seek to
strengthen their connection, and their children´s connection, to
Israel; I estimate their number to be in the tens of thousands. Many
of them served in the Israel Defense Forces and went abroad because
the global economic crisis prevented them from finding work in
Israel. We must keep in mind that ours is a small country with
certain limitations, and that there will always be Israelis who will
go abroad in search of professional opportunities.
The argument of the proposal´s detractors - according to which
Israelis who have chosen to live abroad cannot have a say on
questions of war and peace - is correct when it comes to extending
the vote to all Israelis, including ones abroad for decades. But it
is reasonable to want to enable Israelis who left mainly to work, for
up to five years, to vote from abroad.
Some of those Israelis are on the Interior Ministry´s voting rosters.
The idea is to allow them to exercise their democratic right, just as
official emissaries of the state or the Jewish Agency are permitted
to vote while they are abroad.
The author is the former director of the Israel Zionist Council. (©
Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 04/16/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY