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Voters Spurned

Moran Yaheli Zelikovich. Pregnancy prevented her from flying to vote Photo: Or Kaplan
Moran Yaheli Zelikovich. Pregnancy prevented her from flying to vote Photo: Or Kaplan
 
Liad Ortar. Came to participate
Liad Ortar. Came to participate 
 
Eyal Shachar. 'I was lucky.'
Eyal Shachar. 'I was lucky.' 
 
No rise in the demand for flights ahead of elections Photo: Reuters
No rise in the demand for flights ahead of elections Photo: Reuters
 
 

 

Israelis abroad feel shut out of Knesset elections

'It's important to vote yet my voice will not be heard,' says Maxim, Israeli who lives in Moscow. Legislation enabling Israelis abroad to vote stuck, but debate rages on

Telem Yahav, Boaz Fyler
Published: 12.30.12, 17:55 / Israel News

About 560,000 of the eligible Israeli voters will not be able to vote in the upcoming elections. Around 11% of registered voters have removed themselves from participating in the elections, simply by leaving Israel. Some of them left Israel for many years, some for less, some were sent to promote aliyah – and will not vote.

 

Maxim Ganns, 32, is a project director who organizes the Israeli Film Festival in Moscow. "I've been living abroad for the past three years and I voted in the last elections," he said.

 

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"It's important to vote and yet my voice will not be heard. By voting you identify yourself with your country, and taking part in the elections makes you feel like a citizen. Blocking this option drives you away from Israeli society and the state."

 

More than 100 countries allow citizens to vote abroad – each under different restrictions – among them the United States, Canada, Australia, and Norway.

 


אמריקנים יכולים להצביע מרחוק, גם בדואר (צילום: רויטרס)

Absentee ballots (Photo: Reuters)

 

On February 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he will promote legislation that will enable Israelis to vote abroad. Avigdor Lieberman promoted similar legislation which was even included in the coalition agreements between the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. But these proposals were blocked by various Knesset factions, including the ultra-Orthodox parties and the Labor party.

 

Moran Yaheli Zelikovich, 31, a public relations director at an international firm, has been working in Germany for the past year. "A few months ago there were elections in the Netherlands and my Dutch boyfriend voted in Germany. I thought, quite naively as it turns out, that through a simple procedure at the Israeli embassy I would be able to vote as well," she told Ynet.

 

"Apparently paying my national insurance and health care fees is not enough. In order to vote I have to fly to Israel. There's just one 'tiny' problem, I'm very far along in my pregnancy, so because of a health reason I'm prevented from fulfilling my right as a citizen."

 

But some maintain there is nothing wrong with the current situation. "I would have loved to vote, but I feel that as someone who hasn't been in Israel for many years I haven't the right to decide for those who have what the next government should look like," said Neal Lukov, 36, who has been living in New York for the past 13 years.

 

"Voting and participating in the political process is both a duty and a privilege. Every country defines for its citizens the minimum requirements a citizen must fulfill in order to possess that right," he said.

 

According to El-Al, Israel's national airline, there was no unusual rise in the demand for tickets to Israel before January 22 - election day. Even a special discount for that week has not attracted travelers so far, a Berlin-based travel agent told Ynet.

 

Nevertheless, some Israelis do plan to come to Israel especially to vote.

 

Eyal Shachar, 37, an Israeli-American who works in Paris said, "I was lucky enough to get a week off work and come to Israel. Even here in Paris, Israel continues to be a home away from home for me and I keep myself up-to-date in what goes on there even more than I do regarding New York or Paris."

 

Shachar calls for an amendment to the law so that Israelis abroad will be able to vote. "I have US citizenship and voted in the last US elections from here in Paris. My girlfriend and I registered in the US government website and were sent all the forms necessary for voting. We filled them out, put them in an envelope and that was it. Why can't it be the same for Israel?"

 

Liad Ortar, 38, a VP in a start-up company which specializes in pollution monitoring, moved to Berlin last year. He recently came to Israel for work, and extended his stay specifically to be able to vote. "For me, involvement in Israeli politics is something that doesn't end when one moves abroad. Israel was and is my home and at such an important crossroads as this one, I want to be part of the process and will not give up on being part of the Israeli collective."

 

Telem Yahav and Boaz Fyler are Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondents

 

 

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