Minister Bennie Begin: To vote, the center of one's life must be here.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, REBECCA ANNA STOIL
The scope of Israel Beiteinu’s bill that would enable Israelis abroad to vote will have to be narrowed to ensure its passage, sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.A day after Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman raved about the bill, Minister-without-portfolio Bennie Begin and Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed reservations about it, and Shas vowed to prevent it from passing.Labor, Shas, and even Likud ministers said that only select expatriates should be permitted to vote.“Israelis whose center of life is here should be allowed to vote and there are parameters than can indicate this,” Begin told The Jerusalem Post. “Setting the rules will be complicated, but I would rather have it be complicated than so simple that it allows people who are disconnected from the country to vote.”Begin suggested limiting voting to students studying abroad and workers sent overseas by their companies. Other MKs suggested army service and property ownership as possible criteria.Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin predicted that a minimalist version of the bill would pass. He said the biggest obstacle to passing the bill was Shas and not Labor, despite Barak’s changeover on Tuesday from considering support for the idea under certain circumstances to voicing strong objections to the bill.“I outright oppose granting the right to vote to Israelis living permanently abroad,” Barak said, in a meeting at the Defense Ministry. “Only those who are here with us and bear the burden of the dangers here need to vote.”AdvertisementAn expatriate-voting policy is widely thought to favor the Right. Yet many MKs on the Right came out against the bill for Zionistic reasons on Tuesday, while some opposition MKs on the Center-Left ironically expressed support for it under certain circumstances.“Despite my political interest in supporting the bill, I oppose it, because the country must come first,” said Deputy Negev and Galilee Development Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud).“If someone wants to have an impact here, they must move here. Being here helps the country and not being here means putting the good life above what is good for Israel. People in the casinos in Las Vegas should not be able to vote.”Kadima MK Eli Aflalo, however, said that he could not see any reasonable justification for opposing the bill.MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) said that while he opposed granting all expats the right to vote, he did think that there should be special permission granted to those overseas for a brief time period, such as university studies, to vote overseas in no more than one consecutive election.MK Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) said that under very specificconditions, such as for studies, absentee balloting could beconsidered, but stressed that she opposed allowing those who had movedabroad permanently to vote.MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) whosupported then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s bid to expand thefranchise in 2005 said that she stood by the suggestion that sheproposed a half-decade ago, that voting overseas be permissible onlyfor Israelis who had completed full military service.