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Hillary, Israel is not Iran
By GILAD ERDAN
08/12/2011
Israel is not Iran or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it would be better to begin where the real problems are.
 
Hillary, our dear friend. A few days ago, you expressed your deep concern about harm to the status of women in Israel, which you said reminds you of the events in Iran. The truth is you surprised us. Really.

We did not think that in the midst of a range of international disputes, along with the reversal of the Arab Spring that now turns out to be winter, Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and other real and tangible threats, you would still manage to find time to deal with the status of women.

But we certainly agree with you – the status of women and women’s rights is a universal and important subject.

In Israel, we do have problems, as you pointed out in your address to the Saban Forum – problems such as women’s seating arrangements in some buses or women singing to religious soldiers.

These issues certainly keep us awake at night, and we appreciate the fact you share our concerns. Although the extent of these phenomena is very limited, we are trying to find a way to resolve them, and the government of Israel, out of a deep commitment to the status of women, will act to prevent any violation of equality between women and men.

(In our country, by the way, a woman serves as the president of the Supreme Court, a woman is the head of the opposition, a woman serves as a major-general in the army, and I could give you many more examples.) Each of the sectors in Israel – men and women, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, and others – has representatives in the Knesset, courts, academia, media and all the mechanisms of society.

Because of this, we are really upset that there are several bus lines in which women are required to sit in the back, and we will do all in our power to stop this phenomenon.

We are pleased to know that you, our close friend, are also worried. We are pleased, because we understand that if you are concerned about the status of women in Israel, you are much more concerned about status of women in other countries friendly to the United States, such as Saudi Arabia, for example.

After all, if you’re concerned about the sitting arrangements on the buses in Israel, you must be even more worried about the fact that in Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive at all, not a bus and not a private car.

I am certain that you’re worried that in Arab countries such as Egypt or Qatar, men can marry several women and divorce them without any reason, leaving them without any rights, without custody for their children and certainly without alimony.

I’m also certain that you’re worried that in Muslim countries such as Indonesia or Pakistan, women are executed on charges of adultery.

But, somehow, I do not recall that you have expressed your concern about it or have taken any steps to stop it. Am I wrong? I know that you, Hillary, as one of the most powerful women in the world, attach great importance to the subject of women’s rights, devoting your time to promote this issue despite your busy schedule.

I guess you’re also very concerned about domestic issues in the US relating to human rights, such as the new law in Arizona that was signed by the governor, permitting the police to arrest anyone who might look like an illegal immigrant, which could encourage racial discrimination.

So to make it easier on you, I want to tell you that you should not be so worried about the status of women in Israel.

As I mentioned, there are other places in which the issues of women’s rights, or the rights of minorities or homosexuals, are much more painful. In Israel, unlike in other places and just like in the US, we are taking care of equality between men and women, and we don’t need help. We even get a little offended when we are the targets of moralistic preachings on this subject.

Israel is not Iran or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it would be better to begin where the real problems are.

(This article was translated by Moria Dashevsky.) The writer is minister of environmental protection.
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