'Femmes fatales' an unlikely coalition

"We have nothing in common politically, but we are united on women's issues."

sheli yehimovich 298 (photo credit: Ori Porat)
sheli yehimovich 298
(photo credit: Ori Porat)
They have already proved themselves a deadly force in the 17th Knesset and earned the nickname "femmes fatales," but the female MKs who have formed a multi-partisan bloc for women's rights said they were not just after the kill. "We are not man-haters. There are so few women in the Knesset that we have been forced to band together to fight for women's rights," said MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), who serves as the group's unofficial leader. "We may have nothing in common on diplomatic, military or political issues, but when it comes to women, we are all united." Likud MKs Limor Livnat and Ronit Tirosh, Labor MKs Shelly Yacimovich, Colette Avital, Nadia Hilu and Orit Noked, and Gil Pensioners Party MK Sarah Marom-Shalev form the core of the group, while other female MKs have joined for various issues. What makes the group so powerful in the Knesset, said one male Kadima MK, was "male MKs' inherent terror of saying anything sexist and being hung out to dry." "Many of us are still sorting out our old world views from the new ways in which men and women need to relate to each other," he said. "Many times male MKs find themselves making a slight slip up on sensitive female issues and then being crucified by the public for it." On Tuesday, the new bloc demonstrated its effectiveness during a series of committee meetings geared toward women's rights. In the morning, a group of the MKs took hold of a special meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to discuss the rape of a teen on an air force base. They lashed out at the all-male committee for failing to recognize the importance of the issue after half of the regular members failed to attend. "There have been numerous complaints over the committee's all male composition," said a committee spokeswoman. "Today's committee really felt their presence," she said, referring to the visiting MKs. Yacimovich and Gal-On said the committee members were only interested in discussions with defense and intelligence officials. "If we hadn't brought the issue to the committee's attention and requested the discussion, it never would have taken place," said Gal-On. Several hours later, the bloc took a stand at the Committee for the Status of Women, where the increase in 'honor' killings was discussed. During that meeting, several of the male MKs present made comments that angered women's rights activists. "They try, but they can't really understand this issue," said a representative from a rape crisis center in the North. "If the female MKs weren't here, this issue wouldn't really get proper treatment."