Cabinet secretary mulls bill allowing expats to vote

Zvi Hauser is examining a revival of the "Omri Casspi Bill," which would allow Israeli citizens abroad to vote.

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March 25, 2012 15:58
2 minute read.
Omri Casspi

Omri Casspi 311. (photo credit: (Facebook.com))

Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser is considering reviving the so-called “Omri Casspi Bill,” which would allow Israeli citizens abroad to vote.

Hauser is reviewing a policy paper on the topic, and has yet to bring it to the cabinet’s table for review, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Sunday.

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The paper, from the Jewish People Policy Institute, recommends legislation that would allow Israelis to vote in their first four years abroad, after registering at an Israeli consulate and declaring that they intend to return to Israel.

Similar legislation was discussed by the government last year, and was nicknamed the Omri Casspi Bill for the first Israeli to play in the NBA.

Of the roughly 700,000 Israeli expatriates, most of whom are in the US or Russia, about 50,000 consider Israel the center of their lives, and their votes would account for an estimated two MKs, Hauser said.

Currently only diplomatic officials, Jewish Agency workers and sailors can vote outside Israel.

Hauser told Army Radio over the weekend that he favors such a policy change, which would be targeted at “the heart surgeon in a continuing education program abroad, the university student in the US, the El Al pilot. Their right to vote exists; the problem is with implementing that right.”

Many Israelis contribute to Israel’s economy during their time abroad, and such a law would strengthen their connection to Israel, he said.

“This is a bigger issue than voting – it is about defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People,” he added.

The coalition agreement between the Likud and Israel Beiteinu requires that absentee voting be put to a vote. However, Shas has threatened to take advantage of its coalition agreement with the Likud, which gives every party in the coalition a veto on bills that would change the electoral system.

Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich came out against the proposal on Saturday night, calling it “anti-Zionist” and saying it “spits in the face of citizens of Israel who are partners in building the state, who face constant dangers, serve in the army and pay taxes.”

Israel Beiteinu is trying to increase its political power by harming Israeli democracy, Yacimovich said.

Earlier this year, television personality turned politician Yair Lapid took a stand against the Omri Casspi Bill on his Facebook page.

“Israel is a country whose existence is constantly threatened, so people who don’t live here shouldn’t be able to vote on issues like its borders, bombing Iran or the settlements,” Lapid wrote. “You cannot decide the direction of the country if you don’t have to live with the consequences.”

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.


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