Bill guaranteeing female representation in municipalities moves forward

Law would instate penalty for any list running in the municipal election that is not at least one-third female.

Polling booth 370 (photo credit: Reuters Amir Cohen )
Polling booth 370
(photo credit: Reuters Amir Cohen )
Affirmative action for women in municipal elections may become a reality, after a bill to that effect passed a preliminary reading following a raucous debate Wednesday.
Two bills by MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) and MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) initiating a penalty for any list running in the municipal election that is not at least one-third female.
Kariv’s bill would reduce quotaflouting parties’ government funding by 15 percent, while Zoabi called for a 30% cut.
“Women are 51% of the population, but do not have similar representation in local government,” Kariv wrote in the bill’s explanatory portion.
“This requires us to give them more significant decision-making roles, which will ensure and encourage equal participation in society.”
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, representing the government, said “there is great importance to female representation” and asked for all MKs to vote in favor of the bill.
However, United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni railed against the proposal, calling it discriminatory.
“UTJ supports affirmative action for women who are senior bureaucrats, but you are hurting women with this law.
People will say women are candidates not because they’re good, but because the party bookkeeper doesn’t want funds to be cut. You are harming the status of women,” Gafni emphasized.
Gafni pointed out that out of 256 mayors elected in recent weeks, only three are female, adding: “You, my secular friends, are hypocrites.”
“This is a bluff. A woman’s honor in exchange for money? How much more can you harm women?” MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) said.
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) responded to the haredi MKs that many women do not succeed because they’re blocked from reaching important positions.
“It cannot be that women’s freedom is not represented in the public sphere. There is discrimination against haredi women, because they do not sit in this house. You do not represent them,” Lavie stated.
Gafni replied: “If these walls could blush, they would from embarrassment. This Knesset has no shame. I’ve never seen such hypocrisy.”
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said that he is embarrassed to see party lists without women and anyone who does not agree has a “moral problem.”
“Women are no less talented than men. The system and male hegemony prevent them from running in municipal elections, and we want to help them,” Zahalka added.