I am an Israeli. I am a full citizen with all the rights that citizenship carries. I pay income tax and municipal tax, I am one of the few who has a TV license. I served in the army; basic training followed by reserve duty for many years. As Gilbert and Sullivan might have put it, I am the very model of a modern Israeli citizen.
But I will not be voting in the upcoming election. I will not be allowed to have my say as to which blame-free, uncorrupt politicians will get to benefit from all the goodies and freebies that are a Knesset member’s due. I will be disenfranchised.
How did this sorry state of affairs come about? Like many Israelis, I enjoy the occasional trip abroad. But, a journey to hutz l’aretz is not to be taken lightly. Much planning is needed, flights must be reserved well in advance to get the cheapest fares, in high season hotels must be booked long before the travel date. So, as an experienced traveller, I made all the necessary arrangements for my September trip well ahead of time. I had no way of knowing that there would be an election on September 17, bang in the middle of my trip to Lesotho.
If you are wondering where in the world is Lesotho, it’s a country totally surrounded by South Africa, known as the Kingdom in the Sky. It is the only country in the world to be entirely above 1,000 metres and has the world’s highest lowest-point (Israel has the lowest lowest-point by the Dead Sea). And, if you are wondering why Lesotho, it is the setting of my latest Len Palmer Mystery, shortly to be released as an Amazon e-book, and I decided, perhaps belatedly, to see it for myself.
Way back in 1877, Western Australia introduced a form of postal voting followed by an improved method in South Australia in 1890. Postal voting is a method of voting in an election whereby ballot papers are distributed to electors and returned by post, in contrast to electors having to vote in person at a polling station. Postal votes enable as many voters as possible to take part in an election, it can assist people who may not be able to get to a polling station, because, for example, of a physical disability, absence from their home area, or some other reason.
There have been many further improvements since then and citizens of many countries, including France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom can avail themselves of this method if they are unable to get to an actual polling station.
Unfortunately, we in Israel cannot match the voting systems of such outstanding first-world countries as Indonesia or Malaysia and there is no possibility for a citizen who happens to be abroad to vote while outside of the country. (Israeli diplomats, stationed in embassies and consulates, and Israelis on official state business do have the right to vote while abroad.)
Many countries have fixed-term governments and election dates are known well in advance. Here in Israel, with ruling coalitions enjoying a razor-thin majority, elections can pop up at any time on the whim of a one-man party. There is no way for Israeli travellers to plan to be at home and no way to vote if they aren’t. Surely, if Indonesia and Malaysia have solved this problem, so can we.
Those of you not familiar with American terminology may like to know that “going postal”, the title of this blog, means to lash out violently and at random, often in a blind rage. The term is taken from the 1990’s incidents of workplace violence involving US Postal System workers.
Although I an disenfranchised, I was going to tell you who I would have voted for but I have just been called to breakfast ………..