Will Israelis soon be allowed to cast absentee ballots?

Broad spectrum of MKs back absentee voting for Israelis; Netanyahu has long supported allowing voting abroad; Gal-On says bill is meant to reduce Arab influence in elections.

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)
Lawmakers on the Left and Right signed a new bill drafted by MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) allowing Israelis to vote from abroad.
The latest iteration of the initiative, which has come up time and again since it was first proposed by the Likud’s Moshe Arens during his term as foreign minister in the late 1980s, would only allow Israelis that voted in the previous election while in Israel to vote from abroad. It is identical to legislation proposed by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) last year.
This criterion is meant to only allow Israelis who are abroad for a short period of time to vote.
The bill is signed by MKs from the Likud, Bayit Yehudi, Shas and Zionist Union, as well as Kulanu, which previously expressed opposition to the idea. Yisrael Beytenu has also been supportive of absentee voting in the past.
“In the age of globalization, many citizens are abroad on election day, and they should be allowed to participate in elections through Israeli missions abroad, as most democratic countries in the world do, including: The UK, Germany, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,” the bill’s explanatory portion reads.
Haskel called to encourage as many citizens to participate in democracy as possible, such that “democracy receives its maximum expression in the election results.”
“Many citizens are out of the country for different reasons, like studies or work… These citizens should be allowed to participate in elections through embassies and consulates abroad, as other democratic counties do,” she added.
Haskel also expressed hope that her bill will also help unite and bring closer Jews in Israel and abroad.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has supported absentee voting for over 20 years. Last year, he appointed Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to a task force meant to promote the policy, but it has yielded no results.
A study by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2009 estimated that there are some 550,000 Israelis abroad, not including children of Israelis born abroad.
Israelis who are emissaries of state institutions already have the right to vote while abroad.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On called on opposition MKs who signed the bill to revoke their signatures, because they are supporting “a slippery slope that will lead to legitimization allowing all Israelis living abroad to vote.”
“The real purpose of the initiative is to reduce the influence of Israeli Arab citizens on the results of the next election,” she added.
“That is not something that people [on the Left] should be able to accept or support.”
Gal-On said that people whose lives are not centered in Israel should not be able to influence the government, without having to live with the results.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.