Justice Minister Tzipi Livni 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
When Tzipi Livni took the stage at last week’s conference marking the launch of
a plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in Israel, the audience,
predominantly feminist activists, gave her a lukewarm reception which was
swiftly followed by back-row heckling.
The justice minister and former
foreign minister, who also heads up the negotiating team currently involved in
high-level talks with the Palestinians, was there to deliver a speech on the
importance of including women in peace and security processes, but was stopped a
number of times by disgruntled comments.
Feminists, it seemed, weren’t
happy with Livni, who has throughout her career purposely distanced herself from
women’s issues, claiming she was “man enough” for the job of prime
Next in line to share her thoughts was Zehava Gal- On, head of
the Meretz party, who took the stage with gusto and reminded the audience that
mainstreaming gender equality in policy making is about more than just ensuring
equal numbers of both sexes are present at a committee meeting.
she said, it involves substantive participation in decision making which
provides women with an opportunity to influence key political
The 1325 Action Plan claims that the inclusion of women in
peace negotiations and in decision making bodies, committees and policies that
deal with security issues is a critical step in ensuring not only a more equal
representation of the sexes in politics, but for guaranteeing these important
decisions are not being made by former army generals alone.
week the Israeli Knesset approved the addition of NIS 2.75 billion to the
already monstrously large security budget, literally ignoring their election
promises and the fact that each shekel given to security is one less shekel
spent on education and health.
One can’t help but wonder whether the
inclusion of more women in this decision would have produced a vastly different
Those opposed to measures that seek to legislate equal
representation claim women should not be seen as a unified category, and that
being a woman doesn’t automatically qualify one to be a representative of
women’s issues. Looking at examples such as Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and
even the current German Chancellor Angela Merkel does raise doubts as to the
ability of women to actively promote other women or bring a softer tone to
politics in general.
In fact, many believe once women enter the political
arena they adopt “male” traits in order to succeed, and upon reaching the top,
tend to attribute their success to their own individual abilities rather than
those stemming from being a woman.
However, looking at women’s entrance
into other male-dominated areas, such as the business sector, has been shown to
bring significant advantages to both sexes. Last week the World Economic Forum,
a Geneva-based think tank, published its annual Gender Gap Index which seeks to
rank countries according to levels of gender equality in four categories
including health, education, politics and economics.
The Index creators
claim gender equality increases a country’s and a company’s competitiveness,
leading to economic prosperity and growth.
Unfortunately, over the past
seven years since the Index was introduced, Israel has fallen almost 20 places,
from 35th to 53rd place. This is mainly due to the gap in political
participation, with Israeli women missing almost entirely from parliament and
ministerial positions (ranking well below Angola, China and Georgia to name but
In fact, our neighboring countries, who aren’t well known for
their support of women’s rights, have taken more legislative- and policy-led
actions to close gender gaps over the past half decade than Israel. In addition,
Israel scored quite badly on wage equality, confirming that women’s
contributions in both the political and the economic spheres were
It seems that even in a country founded on socialist ideals,
where women and men serve in the armed forces side by side, true equality is
still a distant dream. When it comes to Israel’s peace and security, it’s still
very much the same boys from the same old military club patting each other on
The author is a girls’ empowerment and women’s rights expert
with over a decade of experience as a gender equality activist and scholar. She
holds an MA in Gender and Development from the London School of Economics and a
BA in Government and Diplomacy from IDC in Herzliya.