Israelis torn over giving citizens abroad the right to vote

Heated debates fill Knesset; eligible Israelis not permitted to vote because of their location numbers over 500,000.

February 9, 2010 23:55
2 minute read.
voting 88 nice

voting 88 nice. (photo credit: )

Over the last two days, heated debates have filled the Knesset over whether or not to allow Israelis abroad the right of franchise. Though some countries grant all citizens the right to vote regardless of place of residence, the only Israelis permitted to vote abroad are mariners and diplomatic personnel.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of eligible Israelis not permitted to vote because of their location during last year’s election was over 500,000.

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Many politicians have voiced their opinion about the proposed law, known colloquially as “chok hayordim,” or, “the law of those who left Israel,” foremost of whom is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who proposed the law, saying that enabling these Israelis the right to vote, “will add to the connection with and to the strength of Israel.”

In Jerusalem’s central bus station, many travelers had the opportunity to voice their opinions as well. According to Yaron Eliyahu, 40, of Emmanuel, only citizens of Israel residing here should be allowed to vote. To cast a ballot, he said, “you must pay the taxes that all of Israel pay, otherwise you don’t have that right.”

But others, such as 39-year-old Maya of Jerusalem, felt otherwise. “As long as you have spent a good amount of time in Israel, you should be able to vote,” she said. As to what constitutes “a good amount of time,” and whether it is important how old the person was when he or she was here, she answered, “a few years, at any age.”

Alternative views, however, could also be found. According to Eliad Kimchi, a 22-year-old student from Givat Shmuel, only citizens who will be living in Israel during the term they wish to vote have that right, and no other criterion should be imposed.

But Ben Willick, a 23-year-old Jerusalem resident and recent oleh from the US, maintained an even stricter approach – only citizens who reside in Israel the majority of the year should have the right to vote abroad.

“Now that I’m here,” he says, “I no longer plan on voting in the US elections.”

Even within the confines of the central bus station, debates formed, as 25-year-olds Koby and Moran, could not come to an agreement.

“Every citizen should be able to vote, no matter where he resides, or how long he has been there,” said Koby, “as long as that person hasn’t become a citizen of his resident country,” he qualifies.

But Moran felt differently, saying, “if they haven’t experienced what Israelis are experiencing, and don’t know what the issues are about, they shouldn’t vote,” she asserted.

Though when it comes to voting in Israel, residents are not required to be aware of the issues nor do any research before voting. Many Israelis, it seems, feel that those wishing to vote abroad should be held to a different standard.

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