Record number of female, religious MKs in Knesset

The 19th Knesset will have 50 new MKs, including Yesh Atid's entire list; Knesset to have five more women than previous list.

January 23, 2013 19:06
3 minute read.
Netanyahu and his cabinet at the Knesset

Netanyahu and cabinet 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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The 19th Knesset will have a record number of female and religious MKs, while the parties’ sizes may change by Thursday, when “double envelope” votes are counted.

Fifty of the next Knesset’s members will be first-time lawmakers. Yesh Atid’s entire list is comprised of newcomers to politics, and only three out of Bayit Yehudi’s expected 11 MKs served in the Knesset in the past.

Likud, Labor, Meretz and The Tzipi Livni Party brought new faces, as did Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al, as well as Strong Israel, if it passes the election threshold.

The incoming Knesset will have 26 women, five more than the previous record-setting one.

Dr. Ofer Kenig of the Israeli Democracy Institute reviewed women in the Knesset throughout history, pointing out that the first Knesset had 11 female members, and in 1988, only seven women were voted into the Knesset, the lowest number since the state’s establishment.

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Merav Michaeli, an incoming Labor MK and feminist activist, was unimpressed by the number of women in the new Knesset.

“Wow, what do you say, 26 out of 120? As in, 26 women and 94 men?” she asked rhetorically.

“Israel is the 70th out of 138 countries with female representatives in parliament,” she stated.

Michaeli added that one of her goals in the Knesset is to change the situation and bring equality to women, and stated that the number of female MKs shows how far away equality remains.

Three parties – Labor, The Tzipi Livni Party and Meretz – have female leaders. Likud (without Yisrael Beytenu), Labor, Bayit Yehudi and Meretz set quotas and saved slots for representation of women in their primaries, while Yesh Atid’s appointed list is 40 percent female.

At the same time, parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism do not allow women to run, and UALTa’al and Hadash did not have any in realistic slots.

In addition, nearly a third of the 19th Knesset members will be religious – either national-religious or haredi – with 11 from Shas, 10 from Bayit Yehudi, seven from UTJ, six from Likud Beytenu, three from Yesh Atid and one in The Tzipi Livni Party.

As Judy Mozes Nir Shalom, a radio host and wife of Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, pointed out on Wednesday, there are only expected to be 30 MKs of Sephardic decent – one-fourth of the Knesset – even though Sephardim make up 51% of the population.

There will only be one Druse MK in the 19th Knesset – Yisrael Beytenu’s Hamed Amer, who is 28th on the joint list with Likud – as opposed to six in the 18th.

The votes of 200,000 soldiers, plus those of prisoners and people in hospitals, will be counted a day later than regular votes, and could be worth six or seven seats in the Knesset.

These ballots are called “double envelope votes,” because many of them are listed in their army base or hospital, as well as in their home town, and it takes longer to count them, because the Central Elections Committee must check to make sure they did not vote twice.

UAL-Ta’al, which received five spots in the next Knesset after 99% of votes were counted, is expected to lose a seat from the double envelope votes, because they are unlikely to receive many votes from soldiers.

Haredi parties, particularly UTJ, are expected to lose a seat or two for the same reason.

At the same time, Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid are considered to be popular with young voters and could gain a seat or more from soldiers.

If the uncounted votes cause Kadima to pass the 2% election threshold, it could push the next coalition from narrow to more comfortable for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but the result will only be known on Thursday.

Kadima is led by MK Shaul Mofaz, a former IDF chief of staff. The party’s campaign focused on security issues and raising soldiers’ compensation from the government to equal that of yeshiva students.

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