(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A ground-breaking report released Monday by the Israel Women's Network concludes that the Knesset is not fully utilizing the tools it has at its disposal for promoting gender equality.
According to the report, which was compiled by the group's research department, only 27 of the 223 laws initiated by private organizations or lobbying groups and passed during the 17th Knesset addressed gender issues, including inequality and discrimination.
Among them were a ban on firing women undergoing fertility treatments for a first or second child, guidelines for the division of assets of divorcing couples, and an increase in maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks.
MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) promoted the highest number of gender-related laws, at 12, followed by MKs Amira Dotan (Kadima), Orit Noked and Nadia Hilou (Labor), and Marina Solodkin and Ronit Tirosh (Kadima).
Of the 4,093 private bills submitted for Knesset approval, just 283, or 7%, were defined in the report as having been gender-related. Among these was a bill seeking to recognize child care expenses for taxation purposes.
MK Zehava Galon (Meretz) was responsible for introducing the highest number of gender-oriented bills, the report said, followed by Sa'ar and Hilou.
Of the 2,930 motions for the agenda and more than 3,800 queries from the floor during the 17th Knesset, only 5% and 3%, respectively, were gender-related.
The report, which will be re-issued following each Knesset, was released during a conference in Tel Aviv on gender-related legislation.
"This report is our way of leading social change," said Nurit Tzur, director-general of the Israel Women's Network. "A vision of equality must be translated into action, legislation, the allocation of appropriate budgets and the appointment of women to public positions."
Among those present at the conference were Foreign Minister and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister and Labor chairman Ehud Barak, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and Meretz-Hatnua Hahadasha chairman Haim Oron.
Netanyahu spoke first, saying the Likud had a proven track record promoting women's issues. He promised his party would continue to promote legislation for gender equality.
Next, Barak admitted that Israel is not yet Scandinavia but noted that a woman - Tzipi Livni - heads one of Israel's largest parties, a woman - Dalia Itzik - heads the Knesset, and another - Dorit Beinish - heads the judiciary.
"Many women are enslaved by parenthood and don't work," he said. "The state needs to step in and promote legislation, such as recognizing child care expenses for tax purposes."
Livni suggested that making her prime minister would be a change women could lead. She added that that many women have told her she inspires them and that she was committed to the feminist agenda.