Bill on settler women's rights makes surprising allies

Labor’s Michaeli signs bill by Bayit Yehudi’s Struck to apply Women’s Labor Law to West Bank Jews, Arabs after Israeli woman is fired during her pregnancy.

Orit Struck 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Orit Struck 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A worker’s rights issue took on diplomatic overtones Sunday, when MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) proposed a private member’s bill to apply the Women’s Labor Law to Judea and Samaria.
Struck said that her issue was the lack of legal protection for women in Judea and Samaria, and not a back-end attempt to annex the area by slowly applying Israeli law through expanding the scope of each individual legislation.
Still, in the past, left and centrist parliamentarians have often opposed attempts to apply any legislation to Judea and Samaria, fearing that it would lead to total annexation.
“The reality that the Green Line is a barrier to basic rights that every Israeli citizen deserves, is immoral and lacks all logic and justice,” Struck said.
Only 13 laws currently apply to Judea and Samaria, while there have been more than 1,700 military orders that, practically, apply laws to the area, since the IDF is the sovereign in the West Bank.
“I believe that MKs from every faction will support this bill, which puts women’s rights above diplomatic differences,” she explained.
The law, which would be the 14th piece of Knesset legislation to be applied to the West Bank should it pass, brought Struck strange bedfellows, such as Labor MK Merav Michaeli, an outspoken opponent of settlements, but a proponent of feminism.
Michaeli explained that, under the circumstances, she thought cooperating with Struck on this legislation was the right thing to do.
“The law applies to Palestinian women as well as to Israeli women,” Michaeli said. “First and foremost I think every country should regulate companies owned by its citizens to protect human and workers’ rights wherever it operates.
Both International law and human rights organizations agree today that rights should be protected as much as possible, also under occupation, which must come to an end in a peace treaty, the sooner the better.”
Despite her many battles for workers’ rights, Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich chose not to sign the legislation.
Yacimovich’s aide Eli Gershonkroin wrote to Struck that, “as is well-known, Israeli law does not apply to the territories for diplomatic, political and legal reasons. Applying Israeli law [to the West Bank] creates a diplomatic and political situation that opposes our world view, and therefore, we will not sign the bill.”
Yesh Atid’s female MKs also did not sign the bill. They did not receive authorization to do so from party leader Yair Lapid, who sent the legislation to the Yesh Atid legal adviser.
Struck was made aware of the issue of lack of women’s rights after hearing from a Jewish woman who lived in Samaria, who had been fired during her pregnancy.
When she petitioned the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, the pregnant woman was told that it would not deal with her case because the Women’s Labor Law does not apply over the Green Line.
According to Struck, who researched the issue, businesses in Judea and Samaria are not required to give workers pregnancy leave, or other rights.
As such, the Bayit Yehudi MK proposed a bill requiring that laws protecting the rights of female workers, whether Palestinian or Israeli, be imposed on Israeli-owned businesses in Judea and Samaria.
It remains unclear if the government would support the bill, once it is formed. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has in the past taken a strong stand against annexation, as well as attempts to apply Israeli law to Judea and Samaria.
Still, in the last government, Netanyahu backed an initiative to allow museums in Judea and Samaria equitable funding status with their counterparts located within the pre-1967 lines.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.