Unlike the United States, which grants all its citizens the right to vote anywhere and under all circumstances, most other countries set certain limitations on the rights of their citizens to vote from abroad. Israeli law grants the ability to exercise this important democratic right only to members of its diplomatic corps and to employees of the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Federation, the Jewish National Fund and the United Israel Appeal. Still, while law enables murderers and other convicted felons serving jail terms to take part in the democratic process, the same law revokes the voting rights of students, university professors, employees of private firms, tourists and other Israelis away from their permanent places of residence on election day.
I had the opportunity to experience this discriminatory law’s implications for myself and my bank account 20 years ago. During the 1996 elections for the 14th Knesset and the premiership, about six months after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, I was stationed in the United States as a correspondent for Haaretz. To exercise my right to vote, I was forced to buy an expensive airline ticket and fly to Israel. My wife, who worked at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, also crossed the ocean to get to the ballot box in Jerusalem. Her colleagues, in possession of diplomatic passports, cast their ballots without having to leave the embassy building. But she was a “local hire” and thus ineligible to vote abroad. A young ultra-Orthodox man who sat beside us on the plane back to New York told us proudly that he had voted 13 times, using the IDs of former Israelis from his community. The relatives of these former Israelis “forgot” to report to the Israeli Interior Ministry that they had passed away, and so their names remained on the voters list.
Those elections brought to power Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who beat former President Shimon Peres by 30,000 votes. We will never know what the results would have been had all Israelis temporarily residing abroad been allowed to exercise their right to vote. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, as cited in the Jewish People Policy Institute’s report, some two-thirds of Israelis who leave the country do so for relatively short periods of one to five years. The JPPI’s researchers calculated that the votes of Israelis residing abroad for up to four years are “worth” two to three Knesset seats.
Full Article: Will Israelis living overseas gain right to vote?.