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Friday, November 28, 2014

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Leave Israeli politics to Israelis

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Suggestions have again been heard in Israel that, to become true partners, Jews in the Diaspora should seek Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return and thus involve themselves in Israeli politics.

 Citizens of many democracies vote in elections in their counties, whether they live there or not, the argument goes, so the same should apply in Israel, the state of the Jewish people.

The new government of Israel could legislate that all Jews, whether Israelis or not, vote abroad in the hope that the Diaspora will continue to support right-wing politics in Israel. Likud and parties to the right of it tend to have a strong following in Jewish communities around the world.

To include Jewish votes from abroad may, therefore, assure the continuity of the present government. Although some Jews have become obnoxious attackers of Israel, mercifully, many more are its uncritical and passionate defenders. They would now get a say as to who will govern there.

An even stronger right-wing government in Israel would further compromise the situation of over 20 per cent of its resident citizens, namely the Arabs. As it now stands, the new strongman of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, wants to test the loyalty of Arabs in ways calculated to further restrict and intimidate them.

Understandably, Jews want to make sure that they remain the majority in Israel. The best way hitherto has been to immigrate there. One of the main reasons for the Israelis’ interest – some say, preoccupation – with anti-Semitism in the Diaspora is that it may persuade more Jews to make aliyah. By allowing those living abroad to vote in elections, they could immigrate to Israel, as it were, without leaving their countries of residence.

Advocates of the scheme might even be prepared to ignore the anomaly of having people vote that neither pay taxes in Israel nor serve in its military.

The proposal, if implemented, would have a profound impact on the nature of Jewish communities around the world. It would prompt a shift from philanthropy, which has always been the main Diaspora identification with Eretz Yisrael, to party politics. This in turn would give our enemies further cause to describe Jews as a fifth column in the countries where they live, which, of course, would breed more anti-Semitism.

What on the face of it seems like a creative idea intended to bind all Jews to Israel may turn out to have very negative consequences.

On balance, a better idea would be to continue to collect money and promote tourism while leaving the running of the country to Israelis who actually live there.

 

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