'Netanyahu's absentee balloting plan - a ploy to disempower Israeli Arabs'

Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On took aim at the premier's intention to pass a law allowing Israelis abroad to vote in parliamentary elections.

Israeli Arab demonstrators take part in a Land Day rally in the northern village of Deir Hanna (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli Arab demonstrators take part in a Land Day rally in the northern village of Deir Hanna
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to enact a law allowing Israeli nationals living abroad to vote in parliamentary elections is a ploy to dilute the political influence of the country’s Arab citizens, the head of the left-wing socialist Meretz party said on Friday.
Zahava Gal-On told Israel Radio on Friday that she finds it “hard to reconcile with the fact that close to 1 million Israelis who chose to live outside the country’s borders and who do not serve in the IDF reserves and do not pay taxes can exert their influence on the government’s policies without having to bear the consequences of those policies.”
The Meretz chair said that while she does not support the initiative, she does respect people’s choice to live where they choose.
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 on 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.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.