Coalition partners agree to enable absentee balloting of Israelis abroad

Kahlon, not UTJ to sign first coalition deal, as early as Tuesday.

An Israeli flag is seen in the background as a man casts his ballot for the parliamentary election (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli flag is seen in the background as a man casts his ballot for the parliamentary election
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israelis living abroad who are not emissaries of the state and its institutions will have the right to vote in Israeli elections for the first time, under a bill that all prospective coalition partners have agreed to support, Likud sources said Tuesday.
Likud officials said the legislation would be included as a clause in the coalition agreement, in an effort to prevent the disenfranchisement of students and people who travel abroad for a limited time on business. The parties in the coalition will work together to set criteria that would permit these Israelis to vote.
Netanyahu has supported this move for 20 years, and Yisrael Beytenu has repeatedly proposed it. In the past, the Likud has supported limiting such legislation to Israelis who have been abroad for less than five years, while Shas wanted it only for those who were abroad for less than two months.
“This clause is intended to bring Israel in line with dozens of other Western countries that have adapted their laws to the global nature of the economy,” a Likud source said. “There are too many Israelis who happen to be abroad when elections are called and are prevented from voting. Right now, Israelis who have lived abroad for 30 years can vote if they have money to fly in, but students abroad temporarily who can’t afford to come cannot. This bill will bring our law into the 21st century.”
A source in Kulanu said his party would support the bill as long as the criteria were reasonable. The source denied reports that United Torah Judaism would be the first party to sign a coalition deal with the Likud.
On Tuesday night, Netanyahu met until past press time with Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon in an effort to complete an agreement that could be signed on Wednesday. A 100-clause deal was completed with UTJ on Tuesday afternoon, but its signing will wait until Kulanu’s agreement is ready.
The other prospective coalition partners all flexed their muscles on Tuesday and complained that deals had not been finalized with them.
Both Shas and Bayit Yehudi held faction meetings in which their party leaders complained about the lack of progress in coalition talks with their parties.
Bayit Yehudi faction head Ayelet Shaked said negotiations would only resume after they received assurances about commitments to build in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and about limiting the power of the courts. Construction Minister Uri Ariel accused Netanyahu of mistreating Bayit Yehudi and its leader, Naftali Bennett.
Likud sources confirmed that it was final that Bennett would receive the Education portfolio, despite Likud ministers wanting it. But Bayit Yehudi officials said the Likud was trying to backtrack on commitments to give the Culture and Sport portfolio to Shaked and the chairmanship of the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee to the party.
A Shas spokesman said there had been a “disconnect of a few days with the Likud” and that the party would not join the coalition if its economic reforms were not included in the coalition agreement. Shas chairman Arye Deri has refused to accept the portfolios he has been offered, and is trying to obtain a package of three ministries for himself.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman also issued a threat when he met with Russian-language reporters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
“Either Yisrael Beytenu will be in the coalition, or we will go to another election,” he said.