Despite all we share with our brothers and sisters in Israel, the country’s national elections draw a sharp distinction between “us” and “them.” Only Israelis can vote for their national leaders, just as it is they who will face the consequences and reap the benefits of their choices. Like every election in Israel, this year’s is potentially critical, asking voters to choose between an incumbent coalition committed to the status quo and rivals, on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, who want to move the country closer to their respective positions.
For the most part, American Jews can only watch the furious campaigning in Israel and hope the voters pick wisely. And yet there is an election we can take part in.
From Jan. 15 until April 30, the World Zionist Organization is holding an election for delegates to its World Zionist Congress, held every five years. The WZO directs hundreds of millions of dollars a year in Israel towards Jewish education, social services, urban renewal, and, most controversially, rural development, within the Green Line and beyond.
The membership of the WZO reflects the ideological diversity of Israel and world Jewry. Slates competing in this year’s American election represent Reform, Conservative, and various streams of Orthodox Judaism. On the Right there is the Zionist Organization of America, and on the Left a new alliance, called Hatikvah, that includes American affiliates of Labor and Meretz as well as J Street, the New Israel Fund, Americans for Peace Now, and Open Hillel.
Together with the Jewish Agency, the WZO serves as the formal liaison between the Diaspora and the Israeli government. As J.J. Goldberg explains in the Forward, “It is the vehicle through which Jews around the world are officially invited to make their views known to Israel and, in a small way, make policy.”
Eligible voters must be at least 18, live in the United States, and accept the Jerusalem Program, a statement of Zionist principles. To register, visit myvoteourisrael.com.