2019 elections to be a game changer for women in Israeli politics?

Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India Mar 08, 2019, 10.04 AM(IST) Written By: Jyotika Teckchandani

File photo. Photograph:( PTI )

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The advocates for women are optimistic that in the upcoming elections, to be held on April 9, female representation will reach higher levels

Israel is a multi-party parliamentary system based on the elections that are conducted once every four years on the national level and once every five years on the municipal level. 

In 1969, Golda Meir was appointed fourth Prime Minister of Israel, thus becoming one of the first women in the democratic world to serve in her country’s highest office. Despite this achievement, however, the inclusion of women in Israel’s cabinets is far from impressive. Compared to other democracies, Israel's female representation is considered ‘average’. 

However, the advocates for women are optimistic that in the upcoming elections, to be held on April 9, female representation will reach higher levels as in the recent municipal elections 13 women are elected as mayors. 

In the span of 25 years, the number of women in the Knesset rose from seven after the elections in 1988 to 27 in the 2013 elections and 29 women in 2015 elections. This corresponds to 24.2 per cent of all parliamentarians, a share that ranks Israel 66th in the world.  However, the top offices like Finance, Defence, and Interior – have never been held by women. 

The only senior ministry ever headed by a woman is the Foreign Ministry. Golda Meir served as foreign minister from 1956 to 1966, and Tzipi Livni was a foreign minister from 2006 to 2009. Ministries like Education, Health and Communication have seen the greater representation of women.   

However, contemporary Israeli politics is undergoing tremendous changes as female politicians are climbing the political ladder at a pace never seen before, for instance, leaders like Orli Levi-Abekasis formed her own political party, and Gesher will contest 2019 elections as she quit Yisrael Beiteinu after clashes with chairman Avigdor Lieberman. 

On the other hand, Bar-Shalom is contesting elections from the new Achi Yisraeli party. Moreover, a number of Arab women have filed nominations for the upcoming elections. Dima Tayeh, an Arab Muslim, is going to contest election from the right-wing Likud party. 

With women from such diverse social and economic background partaking in the election process, Israel will undergo a change that will benefit the future generations to come.  

As we celebrate International Women’s day on March 8, the theme for which is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”, it is important that world leaders along with the citizens work together to create a gender equal world where we do not need one day to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women. 

Let us pledge this women’s day to create a world where every day is a celebration in the lives of women. The first step towards this is by providing greater representation to women in political offices as that’s the hub of policymaking. 

The political circle which was driven and run by male politicians has become more embracing for women in Israel as evident from the growth in the female representation in the last few elections. 

However, what is important is that whether April elections prove to be a game changer for women in Israeli politics? As of now, it seems that women’s representation will not only increase but they will also get important profiles. 

(The article is co-authored by Ms Sonam Bhavnani, PhD scholar, Amity Institute of Social Sciences)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Jyotika Teckchandani

Jyotika Teckchandani teaches at Amity Institute of Social Sciences, Amity University, Uttar Pradesh. Her expertise includes Gender, International Politics, Foreign Policy Analysis, Indian and West Asian Politics.