Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to submit a bill in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, that would allow Israeli citizens to vote from outside the country. The Media Line reports:
Currently only Israeli envoys and diplomats can vote from overseas. Israel’s Absorption Ministry estimates that around 750,000 Israeli citizens live outside the country, and in a country with just over five million eligible voters such an influx of voters would have a noticeable impact.
The push for the voting rights of Israelis living abroad is one of the clauses in an agreement signed between Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party and now-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s right Yisrael Beiteinu party upon their post-election formation of a governing coalition last year. The coalition agreement calls for a bill allowing Israelis abroad to vote to be brought before the Knesset within a year of the government’s establishment.
“There are many things in the coalition agreement that we plan to implement,” Lieberman said at a Knesset press conference. “The law allowing Israelis abroad to vote will be voted on… I promise to keep 100% of the promises we made to our voters.”
Opposition leaders immediately slammed the proposal and Israel’s center-left Labor party, ultra orthodox Shas party and centrist Kadima party were all expected to oppose the bill.
“The right to determine Israel’s fate must lie in the hands of those who live in Israel and are willing to bear the brunt of their decisions,” opposition and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said in a statement. “During his first year in office and also today, Netanyahu has proved that he is prepared to sell the country’s future out to his political partners.”
Livni, said Israelis abroad “should be encouraged to cultivate ties to [Israel] and to return to it.”
If Israel was simply the territorial embodiment of an ideology, then Israeli citizens who choose to live overseas should indeed be entitled to vote. Indeed, why not let any committed Zionist vote in an Israeli election?
In reality, though, Israel is a nation that bears the fundamental characteristics of any other: the people whose lives are most deeply impacted by its political structures are its inhabitants. (Oh, and just in case anyone forgot, 25% of Israeli citizens are not Jewish.)
Anyone who feels passionately about Israel retaining its identity as a Jewish state and who by virtue of being Jewish also has the “right” to live there should either put their Zionism into practice and move to Israel, or have the decency to acknowledge that they are not a Zionist but rather a pro-Zionist.
To be a Jewish pro-Zionist is to say: I celebrate the fact that there are millions of Jews who are willing to practice Zionism on my behalf. Maybe some day I’ll join them, but in the meantime I prefer to cheer from afar and visit occasionally.
If more non-Israeli Jews who call themselves Zionists had the humility to acknowledge that they are not real Zionists, perhaps they’d have a less paternalistic relationship with a country they choose not to make their home. (And perhaps Israeli political parties who cannot drum up enough support at home would stop trying to inflate their power by getting support from overseas.)