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Women in Israeli Politics

   The 2013 Israel election is now over though the final coalitions are not yet formed nor the Cabinet positions filled. But where do women fit into the mix? In 2012, with Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister, there were 3 women in a Cabinet of 39 and 5 women out of 27 Knesset members. The 2013 election is to signal an important moment for women in Israel’s political history.

     Currently there are 6 parties headed by women including 2 major parties. Shelly Yachimovich leads Labor, Tzipi Livni leads Hatnuah, and a third, Zahava Gal-on heads Meretz. Yachimovich leads after years as a feminist activist while Livni has come around to the feminist side seeking out feminist allies. All are actively advocating for a broad feminist agenda for gender equality. They all agree there are collective challenges that women face. Even the Haredi women want to be heard. Esty Shushan, a Haredi woman, started a movement called “No Women—No Vote!”

     A coalition of organizations have brought a High Court petition arguing that it should be illegal if a party excludes women to even run for the Knesset. Although the petition failed, statements made by ultra Orthodox leaders trying to justify women’s exclusion did not go well.

       Good News! The 2013 Israel election did indeed bring a boost to female power. There is a record 27 women elected to seats in the political arena and nearly half are new faces! Stav Shaffer, at age 27. is the youngest Knesset member ever elected. Hopefully the trend will continue with more women selected for Cabinet posts. Kol Hakavod to all!

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