My latest from Haaretz.
Before writing an op-ed, my brain holds a vociferous debate with itself. One side argues passionately against the other and in the end, a vote is taken. Whichever position takes the majority vote becomes the topic of my column. But sometimes there is a stalemate. When this happens, the article will (usually) be left unwritten.
This is what happened when I sat down to write an op-ed about a law recently proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman which would allow Israelis living abroad to cast their ballot in future elections.
As an Israeli living in New York, I thought, “Great for me, finally I’ll be able to participate in Israeli elections.” But then a nagging thought entered my mind: “Do I, or any other Israeli expatriate, deserve to vote from afar?”
That question inspired the following row in my brain:
Left Brain: Yes, you do deserve it. Suffrage is an inalienable right inherited by virtue citizenship, not residence, and guaranteed under Israel’s Basic Laws. To condition civil rights on residence is to violate the principle of democratic rights and open the door for further compromises. It is for this reason that many democratic countries allow absentee ballots. If it is good enough for venerable democracies like the United States and France, then it is good enough for Israel.
Right Brain: No, you don’t deserve it. So what if many democratic countries allow ex-pats to cast absentee ballots? Israel is different. It is different in that so many of its citizens live abroad; it is different in that many more could be granted citizenship via the Law of Return; and it is different in that Israeli politics actually matter. All combined, the law could create a gallut (Diaspora) swing-vote whereby Israelis abroad play a crucial role in constructing domestic policy. In a country like Israel, it is unfair to let people who don’t partake in the challenge of living here to decide the fate of those who do.
To read the rest of the debate, click here.