Speak and be heard

Chairwoman Dalia Itzik presides over a Knesset in which only 14% of the MKs are women.

By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL
September 21, 2006 11:04
2 minute read.
Speak and be heard

dalia itzik 298 88 aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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People of the year: JPost special When Dalia Itzik received her first cabinet post as Minister of the Environment in the spring of 1999, she couldn't help hide her disappointment. It was where you put somebody that you wanted to hide, she complained to a close associate in the Labor Party.

Don't worry, she was told, you'll make something of yourself wherever you are.

Seven years later, and Itzik is the first female Knesset Speaker in Israel's history. Not content to make waves with her gender alone, Itzik has made several controversial moves since her election as Speaker and clarified to everyone that she has no interest in hiding.

During the war, Itzik made it clear that although the Knesset Members were on their summer recess, nobody could accuse them of playing while the war was raging. Calling a special session every week of the month-long violence, Itzik was also the first to invite Olmert to address the public on the merits of the war.

Less than 48 hours after a cease-fire was called, Olmert gave his victory speech to the Knesset; but Itzik managed to burst into the headlines when she announced an ambitious plan to form an emergency government which would unite most parties under Olmert's leadership.

"At this time, as our nation struggles to rebuild itself from this war, it is important that the people of Israel have a strong unified government to look to," said Itzik.

Despite the objections of her own party, and the rejection of the prime minister, Itzik has continued with her plan to unite the parties, meeting with party leaders to test what it would take for them to join the government.

On September 10, Itzik even managed to become Israel's first female president, (albeit temporarily), when she replaced Moshe Katsav for 16 hours to swear in Dorit Beinisch as Israel's first female Supreme Court President.

September was a particularly good month for Itzik, especially since her legal woes were put to rest when Attorney General Menahem Mazuz announced that he would not launch a criminal investigation against her for donations made to the Shimon Peres election campaign while she was head of election headquarters.

Itzik, who has been a close associate of Peres since she first entered politics, left the Labor Party with Peres to join the Kadima Party.

Through her career as Minister of Environment and Minister of Trade in the 15th Knesset, and Minister of Communications in the 16th Knesset, Itzik has earned a reputation of bringing in her own people to the office and doing things her own way.

During her first week as Knesset Speaker, Itzik announced that she was going to give the building a facelift. Ignoring the jokes about a women's place in the workplace, Itzik gave the Knesset its first major makeover in over 40 years. When MKs return to work at the end of October, gone will be the Kelly-green carpets and worn-in grey sofas. New carpeting, lighting and modern black furniture have been brought in, and a new rule dictates that committee rooms must have fresh flower centerpieces brought in at the start of each week.

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