There’s an apocryphal statement that goes as follows: “One third of Israelis serve in the army, one third of Israelis work, and one third of Israelis pay taxes. The problem is that it’s always the same third.”
Since announcing my candidacy for Zehut International’s slot in the Zehut Knesset list, more than one person has complained that they feel it is unfair for non-Israeli citizens to have any say in the make-up of our parliament. If they live here, if they pay taxes, then they can vote, they say. There is an obvious logic to their argument. Just as we believe there should be no taxation without representation, the converse can also hold true that there should not be representation without some type of taxation.
However, there is a limit to that logic, especially regarding Israel.
If the State of Israel were merely a country of its citizens, a country like many other countries in the world, then it would be quite sensible to prevent any outsiders from meddling in our internal political process. However, Israel is so much more than that.
Israel is the Jewish homeland. Israel is a state for all Jews, wherever they are in the world. The relationship between Israel and world Jewry is an unbreakable bond that transcends politics. It is a yearning and a bond and a prayer that have been on our lips and in hearts for two millennia. Israel is made up of our ancestors, our grandparents, our cousins, our brothers and our sisters who have come back from the far reaches of our planet to resettle the land. And they continue to do so. Distinctly from any other country in the world, every Jew can and should have a say as to the destiny of the State of Israel.
Understandably, those of us who are blessed and have the merit to live in Israel, to work in Israel, to pay taxes in Israel, to have children who serve in the army of Israel, should have a significantly greater say in our fate and destiny. Right now Israeli citizens have an exclusive say in Knesset elections and in the primaries of all of the political parties that hold primaries.
The innovation which Zehut has introduced for its primaries is to allow every tenth spot to be determined by vote of Jews in the Diaspora. This is a significant and meaningful innovation, though at this early stage of Zehut’s development it may be seen as a symbolic gesture. Keep in mind, there are a number of Israeli political parties which have no primaries at all, where their list is determined directly by the party leadership. Also, we’re talking here about the primaries, not the government election.
In reviewing Zehut’s decision to assign one tenth of its list to votes from the rest of the world, I thought it highly appropriate that they choose specifically that ratio.
The Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Kiddushin 49b states: “Ten measures of wisdom descended upon the world. Israel took nine of them, and the rest of the world took one.”
Israel and the Israeli electorate do not possess all the wisdom of the world, nor do they have the sole right to an opinion as to the fate of Israel. Jewish Diaspora has a role. That role may be limited and tightly circumscribed, but it is an important and meaningful role nonetheless. To give Diaspora Jewry a disproportional role in Israeli elections would be inappropriate. But to give them no role whatsoever misses the point of the connection and the dependence we have to each other. A tenth of the vote is both sensible and talmudically based.
I look forward to our Diaspora siblings taking advantage of this unique opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in the Israeli political process, and I hope that my Israeli friends will both appreciate and welcome this important, though limited, participation of our brethren in the electoral process.