The Knesset plenum .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
New legislation seeking to force haredi parties to include women on their lists for the Knesset is set to go to a preliminary vote Wednesday.
MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union), who held a conference in the Knesset on female political representation Monday, states that a list that has no women on it can be considered negating Israel as a Jewish and democratic state – one of the grounds on which a party can be disqualified for running for Knesset seats.
In recent years, the Supreme Court overturned all Central Election Committee decisions to ban lists from running.
In addition, the bill does not preclude circumvention by putting one woman in an unrealistic spot on the list. Proposals similar to Svetlova’s have been voted down by past Knessets.
The current Knesset has 32 female MKs out of 120, more than ever before.
Speaking to a packed room of women, with only a handful of men present, Svetlova said she expects MKs from the coalition and opposition to vote for her bill.
“It cannot be that there women are excluded in Israeli democracy, and we will fight on this matter as long as it is necessary,” she stated.
Svetlova said she received messages from haredi women complaining that they do not have political representation.
Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) commended female political activists “for building a different society, equality, democracy, promoting social justice and personal security” who work outside of the Knesset, as well, though she said that cannot replace parliamentary representation.
“We will not reach basic, appropriate representation if we do not use the elementary power we have in our hands, which is the right to vote...Half of those who vote for parties that don’t let women run are women themselves. That is our power, and we must use it to change the existing situation,” she stated.
MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) said that “there is no one central thing that if we fix it, it will bring equality. Inequality is everywhere, in politics and in civil society.”
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), who Svetlova called the one “brave” male MK in attendance, said that Israel has made progress in female representation, but there is still a long way to go.
“We have 32 female MKs, but why not 40 or 50?” he asked. “Politics is important, and from the Knesset, [women’s] circles of influence will expand to other areas.”
Shai said he is proud that Labor is the party with the highest percentage of women elected in a primary.
Also at the conference were the leaders of No Voice, No Vote, a haredi women’s movement calling for representation in Shas and UTJ.
Haredi journalist and No Voice, No Vote co-chairwoman Tali Farkash said there are nearly half a million Israeli citizens who are not represented in the Knesset. She included many Arab women, as well, as some of the parties making up the Joint List don’t have women on their lists.
“This impacts our lives. It harms employment conditions in populations with a high rate of poverty rate and dependence on welfare,” Farkash explained.
According to Farkash, the haredi parties’ claims that they do not let women run for reasons of Jewish law are “no longer relevant.”
“The haredi MKs are excellent, but haredi women are not their top priority,” she stated.
As for why haredi women don’t run and vote in other parties, Farkash explained that they share Shas and UTJ’s ideology.