Lieberman, Netanyahu want Israelis abroad to vote
Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu leaders agree to push for legislation of bill allowing Israeli citizens residing overseas to participate in general elections. Former MK who proposed bill in past says such a law will dilute Arab, leftist votes. Likud MK says bill meant to serve Lieberman's own political purposes, gaining him 200,000 votes of Russian Israelis abroad
Will the hundreds of thousands of Israelis residing abroad be able to vote in Israel's next general elections? Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu hope so, and agreed on Thursday that they would work together to have such a law passed.
According to the bill proposal, the 800,000 to one million Israeli citizens living abroad with a valid citizenship will be able to vote in any of the consulates throughout the world.
Eran, 42, who has been living with his family in New York for the past 20 years, praised the decision, saying, "Citizenship means all the obligations and all the rights. The State of Israel is largely supported by foreign money from citizens that make a living from businesses abroad.
"People who emigrated should not be referred to with expressions of anger as they were 20 years ago. Today we need a more progressive attitude. There is always a chance than an Israeli will return to Israel."
Dr. Naor Regev, who has been living in Italy for many years now, gave similar praise of the decision. "Even though I've been living in Rome for so long, Israel will always be home.
"The policies of the State of Israel effect international moves and there is no reason why someone who waves the flag abroad should not be able to take part in the democratic process."
'Lieberman's personal-political move'While Israelis living abroad welcomed the decision, certain Likud officials called it an irresponsible move, saying it could "encourage emigration".
A top Likud MK said on Saturday, "This is a personal-political matter on Lieberman's part. He is leading this proposal only to enable the 200,000 Russians who immigrated to Israel and then emigrated to take part in elections and get their vote at the polling station."
Lieberman said on Saturday that the proposal meant to enable Israelis abroad to vote is one of his party's moral demands.
The bill was first proposed in the 16th Knesset by former Yisrael Beiteinu MK Eliezer Cohen, who said his proposal was centered on three basic elements, the first being that all western countries allow their citizens to vote while residing abroad, second that Israeli Arab voter turnout rates will relatively drop if Israelis abroad are allowed to vote, and third, that there are more right-wing Israelis abroad than leftists.
"Research I did showed that this proposal is better for Jews and not as good for Arabs and leftists," the former MK Cohen explained on Saturday.
Cohen added that the faction to foil his proposal at the time was Likud, whose chairman actually supports the bill now.
Menachem Ganz contributed to this report