Not Democratic, Not Zionist

The idea of granting the right to vote in Knesset elections to Israeli citizens residing abroad is undemocratic and anti-Zionist.

The idea of granting the right to vote in Knesset elections to Israeli citizens residing abroad is undemocratic and anti-Zionist. That is why it does not matter who will benefit from it politically: We should object to the move in principle.

The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy. It is fundamentally assumed that the public is the basis of the legitimacy of political decisions, and also those responsible for putting it into action.

This principle is what encompasses the moral justification of the democratic process: Those who make the decisions will also bear its results, for good and for bad. Participation without responsibility is immoral and weakens the foundations of democracy.

It is true that older democracies such as the United States, Britain and France also grant voting rights to citizens living outside their borders, but this does not apply to "the majority of democratic countries," as the law proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu claims.

But the difference between those countries which do allow non-residents to vote and Israel is deep and fundamental.

First, in every one of those countries the percentage of citizens living outside the country is negligible compared to the general population. Therefore, granting the right to vote to this public will not determine the results of the voting. It is more an act of identity.

Here we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people - a significant percentage of Israel's citizens.

Second, in most cases the citizens involved are living overseas temporarily. In the case of Israel, these are mostly Israelis who left their country forever, even if they may still have a emotional attachment.

Third, none of those other countries are facing such fateful decisions as Israel. The issues which we will have to decide are those of war and peace, which will determine our very existence. Therefore, granting the right to make that determination to those who do not live here, and will not have to deal with the results, is nothing but moral abandonment.

And last but not least: The sponsors of the new law have given the United States as an example. But every U.S. citizen living abroad must also pay U.S. income tax and file their tax return every year to the IRS.

The logic is clear: There is no free lunch. If you want to participate, you must share the burden. I am not sure Israelis living in the United States who think its their right to participate in elections will also be willing to pay income taxes to Jerusalem.

In addition to the issue of democracy, there is also the Zionist side. Israel was intended to be the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it was built on the assumption that there is significance to Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.

Granting the right to vote to those who left the country - as was their right - blurs the distinction between Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora. Maybe we should not call those who have left yordim, descenders, but giving them the right to vote grants legitimacy to leaving Israel.

Many Israelis have left the country not just because of globalization, but because Jews have wandered hither and thither for thousands of years.

Zionism tried to tie them to their homeland, but the proposed law blurs the difference between living in Israel and living in the Diaspora - and undermines the Zionist goal: To be a fee people in our land. That is not just a slogan, but a real, concrete goal.

The fact that the proposed law comes from parties that see themselves as super-patriotic raises serious doubts as to their motives.