PM Netanyahu seeks law allowing absentee ballots for Israelis living abroad


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking several electoral reforms, the allowing of full absentee voting & automatically enabling leader of the largest party to form the government.

By Mati Tuchfeld & Shlomo Cesana


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that he plans to spearhead several electoral reforms, including one that would allow Israelis living abroad to vote in general elections.

A new bill may make it easier for expats to participate in Israeli elections. – Photo: Reuters

Under Israeli law, absentee ballots are reserved for diplomatic corps personnel and official Israeli emissaries only. The law does not allow citizens who are traveling or have moved to other countries to vote.

The prime minister has also decided to promote the Jewish state bill, which seeks to declare Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu also plans to change the system of choosing a government after an election, so that the head of the party with the largest number of votes is automatically tasked with forming the government. Under the current Election Law, the president consults with the parties and chooses the person he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition.

Another amendment seeks to raise the number of MKs required to topple the government in a vote from 61 (out of 120) to a larger majority, yet to be determined.

The coalition agreement states that coalition members would have to support Netanyahu’s legislative bids.

Netanyahu has named Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) to head the coalition committee tasked with formulating the legal amendment to enable absentee ballots.

“As instructed by the prime minister, I plan to pursue legislative amendments that would guarantee proper governance and governmental stability. I also plan to pursue expedited legislation that would allow Israelis abroad to vote in elections. This is customary in most countries worldwide, and it will bolster Israeli citizens’ link to Israel,” Levin said.

Commenting on the Jewish state bill on Sunday, Netanyahu said, “We are adamant to see the Jewish state bill through, and to cement, in no uncertain terms, the fact that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, the Jewish people’s nation-state.”

Coalition Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) will head the coalition committee tasked with promoting the Jewish state bill. Committee members include Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), MK Yifat Sasha-Biton (Kulanu), MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) and former Shas MK Ariel Atias.

The Jewish state bill “is one of great importance, especially at times when many challenge the state’s Jewish identity and character, but it is not devoid of sensitive issues,” Hanegbi said Sunday.

“The committee seeks to formulate the proper manner in which to address these issues, so as to reach language that would be acceptable to all. As justice minister I am versed in the fundamentals of Basic Laws, and I believe it could be drafted in a manner that reflects a wide consensus.”

One of the drafts of the bill sought to promote it as “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.” Israel’s Basic Laws comprise a series of benchmark legislation meant to regulate key issues of state.

A statement by the Zionist Union party criticized Netanyahu’s legislation bids as “proposals that have nothing to do with better governance. As always, Netanyahu is trying to pass bills meant to secure his position as prime minister for years to come.”


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