golda meir 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP archive photo)
Although the 18th Knesset includes 21 female parliamentarians - the largest number ever in the history of the state, there is no reflection of this in the incoming government. Judging by the most recent media reports, it would seem that not only will the ratio of women in government fall far short of their representation in the Knesset, but there is little likelihood that there will be any women at all in Israel's 32nd government.
Media speculation on the apportioning of ministerial portfolios makes occasional mention of Limor Livnat, but with so many other frustrated hopefuls to whom Prime Minister designate Binyamin Netanyahu allegedly promised a seat in the government, it looks as if Livnat and Israel Beiteinu's Sofa Landver can at best receive an appointment as deputy minister - if at all.
The glaring retrograde step assumed greater significance on Sunday, International Women's Day, when media outlets in Israel and around the world began publishing statistics related to women.
In Israel, women represent 51 per cent of the population, and have made enormous progress in managerial positions in both the public and private sectors, but when it comes to government, Israel lags way behind many developed countries, especially those in Scandinavia.
The 13th government of Israel which held office from January, 1966 to March 1969, was the first without a woman. Admittedly Golda Meir had been the sole woman in the 12 preceding governments, but at least the government was not entirely a male domain, even though Ben Gurion called her the only man in his government. Meir was back again as Prime Minister in the 14th 15th and 16th governments, but was not a member of the 17th government. In that one, another woman finally made it to the corridors of power, albeit not to the top. Shulamit Aloni was minister without portfolio. There were no women in the 18th government headed by Menachem Begin, but he brought in Sara Doron as a minister without portfolio to the 19th government and appointed Miriam Glazer-Tassa as a deputy minister. Doron and Glazer-Tassa continued in the same positions in the 20th government. Although President Shimon Peres is today a leading advocate for equal opportunities for women, and has given most of the senior positions in his office to women, when he served as Prime Minister in the 21st government, there were no women in his cabinet, though Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino was deputy minister of health, becoming minister of health in the 22nd government headed by Yitzhak Shamir, who was also prime minister during the 23rd and 24th governments. There were no women in the 23rd government, and Geula Cohen was deputy minister of science and technology in the 24th government. The situation improved in the 25th government headed by Yitzhak Rabin when Shulamit Aloni, and Ora Namir, were given ministerial portfolios, and Masha Lubelsky was appointed a deputy minister. The same two female ministers were also in the 26th government led by Shimon Peres, and Masha Lubelsky remained a deputy minister. The number was again reduced to one in the 27th government in which Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Limor Livnat as communications minister. Yuli Tamir and Dalia Itzik served as ministers and Marina Solodkin as a deputy minister in the 28th government under Ehud Barak. The number of female ministers was boosted to three in the 29th government when Ariel Sharon gave portfolios to Tzipi Livni, Limor Livnat and Dalia Itzik, with Dalia Rabin, Naomi Blumenthal and Sofa Landver as deputy ministers. The late Yehudit Naot was Minister for the Environment for the first 20 months of the 30th government, but had to resign to undergo treatment for cancer. Other women in the 30th government were Limor Livnat, Tzipi Livni and Dalia Itzik with Orit Noked, Gila Gamliel, Ruhama Avraham Balila, and Marina Solodkin as deputy ministers. In the outgoing government, there were three women, Tzipi Livni, Yuli Tamir and Ruhama Avraham Balila.
Some of the women mentioned above held two or more portfolios simultaneously, thus on a technicality, it could be argued that female representation in the government was actually more than meets the eye. Even so, the ratio did not come anywhere near to women's representation in the population.