Knesset to Mull Allowing Israelis Abroad to Vote in Elections

Law would grant backpackers, businessmen sent to work outside of Israel right to vote in Knesset poll.

Gideon Alon
Haaretz Correspondent
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Gideon Alon
Haaretz Correspondent

A proposal to allow Israelis living abroad to participate in government elections will be brought to Knesset for approval Wednesday in a preliminary reading.

The initiator of the proposal, MK Eliezer Cohen (National Union), claimed that there are approximately 460,000 Israelis living in North America, 270,000 of who possess the right to vote in Knesset elections.

Cohen argued that there is no justification to prevent those with a valid passport and an "affinity to the land" from participating in elections, as in other democratic states.

"In an age of globalization when many citizens reside in other countries for the purpose of business, on election days they should be permitted to participate in elections by means of an Israeli representative abroad, as is customary in many other democratic countries in the world, for instance, the United States, Britain, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand," said Cohen.

In a nearly unanimous decision this week, all Likud MKs except for Ehud Yatom agreed to support bringing the proposal to the Knesset for a preliminary reading. It was also agreed that a committee, which would include Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Coalition Chair MK Gideon Sa'ar, Law and Justice Committee Chairman MK Michael Eitan, and MK Gilad Erdan, would be convened to examine who would be eligible to vote under the proposal.

This proposal would allow Israeli backpackers spending time abroad to participate in elections, as well as for representatives of public companies and Hi-Tech personnel sent to work outside of Israel.

Participants in this week's deliberation pointed out that this proposal would greatly broaden the number of voters. As of now, only people working in consulates abroad, emissaries of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, and sailors in merchant ships with Israeli flags can participate in elections from abroad.

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