If there was one group that lost big in Tuesday’s municipal election, it was
women. Only two women were elected mayor out of dozens who ran, meaning that
only 1 percent of municipalities participating in the election will have female
Miriam Feirberg was reelected in Netanya with 72 percent of the
vote, and Lizzy Delricce won in Ganei Tikva. Yaela Miklis is facing off against
Yehud Mayor Yossi Ben David in a second round in two weeks.
Zoabi received only 3,812 votes in Nazareth, and Mitzpe Ramon Mayor Flora
Shushan lost her reelection bid.
In Ramat Hasharon, Nurit Avner lost to
Yitzhak Rochberger, who was indicted for breach of trust, fraud and falsifying
Two female mayors remain in place, because their cities did
not participate in Tuesday’s election: Tali Ploskov of Arad and Sigal Moran of
the Bnei Shimon Regional Council.
That makes four out of 256
municipalities – 1.6%.
While the number of women on municipal councils
was still unclear on Wednesday, there are plenty of examples that make it hard
to imagine that the amount of female city council members will reach much more
than the 376 it was before the election.
In Jerusalem, haredi woman
Racheli Ivenboim had to resign from the Bayit Yehudi list after facing threats
to her and her family. In Elad, a brave group of haredi women ran on their own
list and got 1.8%, or 260 votes.
The only woman to lead an Arab
municipality since 1948 was Violette Khoury of Kafr Yasif in 1972.
the fact that for the last five years half of the population was represented by
only 11% of the city council members shows that this problem is not limited to
the haredi and Arab sectors.
A highly publicized campaign by WePower, an
NGO promoting women’s leadership, was not enough to boost numbers. The group
sought to bring in 30 female mayors and 1,000 female council members. Neither
was the call by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar in the Knesset for citizens to
boycott parties without women in realistic positions on their candidates
“It cannot be that there is no female presence in the places where
important decisions about our everyday lives are made,” WePower executive
director Yifat Zamir said this summer. “These decisions have to be made while
women’s needs are not considered at all.”
This trend exists on the
national level, too, but it’s not as bad, with three female cabinet ministers
and 27 MKs.
There’s clearly a problem here. Women have equality under
law, but people are not voting for women.
It could be that the quality of
candidates is lacking, but the odds of that are pretty slim when only two of
over 30 were chosen and at least one was running against someone facing
What’s more likely is that there is still a social
stigma against women in powerful positions.
Political blogger Tal
Schneider followed female candidates throughout the election season and reported
that many of them faced questions like “How can you balance a job, kids and city
council meetings?” Why aren’t men asked those questions? Surely most of them
have jobs and children in addition to being on city council.
At least two
MKs think that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with through
MK Aliza Lavie, chairwoman, of the Knesset Committee for the
Advancement of the Status of Women, and MK Yifat Kariv, both from Yesh Atid,
submitted a bill penalizing parties that do not have women on their lists, which
is expected to be brought to a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation
“Only two women out of 191 municipalities [that elected
mayors on Tuesday] is a catastrophic number,” Lavie said. “It cannot be that
over half of the public in Israel has less than 1% representation in local
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) suggested even more government
control of parties’ lists.
“These results prove what we already know from
experience: There must be a law that requires equal representation for women
everywhere,” Michaeli added, saying all lists should be half male and half
“It’s incredible how it’s natural for the public to vote for
mayors suspected of crimes but not for women,” Michaeli said.
solution is for the parties to save spots for women, as did the Likud, Labor and
Bayit Yehudi in the last general election. Of course, that didn’t bring total
gender equality, but it did bring more female MKs than ever
Whatever the best way to solve this problem may be, something has
to be done, because waiting for the electorate to realize that women, as well as
men, are worthy of leading them is taking far too long.