NEW YORK (JTA) — Israeli diplomats around the world and their families cast absentee ballots in the elections for the 19th Knesset.
More than 4,000 Israeli citizens were eligible to vote at polling booths set up Thursday at 96 embassies and consulates, the Times of Israel reported. The day of absentee voting comes nearly two weeks before elections are held in Israel on Jan. 22.
“Elections are always something very important, and we happen to have the good fortune to be the first ones doing it. This is really very moving,” Shemi Tzur, Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand, was quoted as saying by the Times of Israel. “We’re a small team far from Jerusalem. But today we feel very close.”
Tzur and his staff at the embassy in Wellington – Israel’s closest diplomatic outpost to the International Date Line – were the first to cast their ballots.
The largest number of Israeli absentee voters live in the New York area, where up to 700 people are expected to cast their ballots. The ballot boxes will be gathered and put in safekeeping at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem unitl Election Day, when they will be opened and the votes counted.
By law, Israelis living or visiting overseas are not eligible to participate in elections unless they are state emissaries, employees of advocacy groups such as the Jewish Agency for Israel, or are the spouses or kin of such individuals.