Expat Arabs to Vote Abroad, Too?

An estimated 80,000 Arab families with Israeli citizenship emigrated from Israel. NIF-assisted NGO wants them vote if expat-voting bill passes.

Gil Ronen , | updated: 09:18

Arab voter
Arab voter
Israel news photo: Flash 90

An Arab advocacy group would like Arab citizens of Israel who live abroad to vote for the Knesset, if a proposed law to allow Israelis to vote abroad passes. The group, Mossawa, which is supported by the New Israel Fund, estimates that about 80,000 Arab families have emigrated from Israel and most of them reside in the US, Canada and Latin America.

The bill is a joint initiative by Avigdor Lieberman's Jewish-nationalist Israel Our Home party and the governing Likud party. Mossawa's idea is probably not what the bill's initiators envisioned when they proposed it.

Mossawa director Jaafer Farah announced the initiative on a radio show on government-run Voice of Israel in the Arabic Language, on which he was a guest. Farah said that following the decision to allow expatriate citizens to vote, his group had decided to create a database of Arab citizens abroad and hold a survey in order to reach out to them.

"The Arab expatriates are our ambassadors abroad and we must reach them and make contact with them – this is very important,” Farah emphasized.

A representative of the Interior Ministry who was also interviewed said that at present, Israelis who reside abroad and wish to vote must go to the Israeli embassy or consulate in order to receive an Israeli ID card or passport, and then must travel to Israel in order to vote.

Show presenter Iman Al-Kassem called on the listeners to learn the law well so as not to encounter legal snags. “Arabs who emigrated must hold on to their citizenship and ID cards in order to make sure they will be able to return to Israel,” she said.

A subcommittee of the Knesset's Law, Constitution and Justice Committee has been established in order to look into allegations that NGOs including those assisted by the New Israel Fund use money from foreign donors in order to damage Israel.