It’s time to allow non-resident Israelis to vote in Knesset elections.It is time to allow non-resident Israelis to vote in Knesset elections

As immigration numbers drop and more and more Israelis leave the holy land, the time has come to create a change with the largest potential ‘aliyah’ reservoir: The million-or-so former Israelis currently residing abroad, mostly in the United States.

Reflecting late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s perception that emigrating Israelis were a “bunch of cowards,” the State of Israel revoked their right to vote in Knesset elections.

Such a move would be unthinkable in the United States, Britain, France or any other Western country. For these countries, the rights of citizenship are not dependent on country residence.

Therefore, US citizens who live their whole lives in Israel are entitled to vote in American elections at special voting booths set up at the American consulate in Israel.

Were an Israeli living abroad to appeal to the Supreme Court to restore his voting rights for national elections, the court well might grant the request.

The time has come for the Knesset to right this wrong and allow all Israelis, wherever they may be, to vote for the Knesset, on condition they register at their nearest Israeli consulate and pay a fee.

Why should an Israeli in America for study or work purposes lose his voting rights?

In this period of globalization, we must enact appropriate legislation to reflect new international norms of work, life and study.

In addition, the particular responsibilities incumbent on Israeli residents are not as overriding as they once were, now that military duty does not include all Israelis.

There is general agreement that Israelis on temporary assignment abroad should be entitled to vote. But my proposal goes even further: Even Israelis who have lived abroad for many years, and their children, and whose connection to Israel has wavered, should be permitted to vote.

This change would spur hundreds of thousands of Israelis to register at Israeli consulates and to reconnect with Israeli life.

Party heads would campaign abroad, they would receive campaign materials at home, and the Israeli connection would be there on their doorsteps. Who knows, the move may even bring some of them back to their true home.

Some people claim that allowing ex-pat Israelis to vote would tip the political scales, but the right of every Israeli to vote is more important than temporary party considerations.

In addition, it is unlikely that more than a few hundred thousand people would actually come out to vote, and so their votes wouldn’t change the results too dramatically.

The time has come for Israel to start fighting for the million lost children who reside abroad, instead of ignoring them and pushing them away.

There would be no better way than returning their right to vote as a way of showing: We want you.

(Reprinted with permission from