President Moshe Katsav has urged Arab parties to give women realistic slots in the lists for the upcoming general elections in March, 2006. Katsav made the call on Wednesday night during an awards ceremony at Beit Hanassi that accorded special recognition to employers who encourage women to develop their potential by promoting them in accordance with their merits. In 1999, Hussniya Jabara made history when she became the first Arab woman elected to the Knesset. But she was not elected on the ticket of an Arab party. She was on the Meretz list. With only 18 women among its 120 members, the Knesset trails way beyond most other parliaments in its ratio of female representation, partially because women have been denied entry to the purely Arab and Religious Party lists. Hadash, a mixed Arab-Jewish list did include women candidates in realistic slots. Gila Finkelstein, who was included in the outgoing National Religious Party list had to fight tooth and nail for her place. The NRP has also tended to exclude women and changed its policy only after Emunah, the women's affiliate of the NRP threatened not to vote for the party. The women's equal opportunity campaign headed by vice premier Ehud Olmert in his capacity as Minister for Industry, Trade and Labor aims to enable women to reach top level management positions if they have the necessary qualifications for the job. The campaign has been endorsed by numerous organizations and enterprises in both the public and private sectors. Among these are the Civil Servants Commission, the Israel manufacturers Association, the Israel Managers Forum, the Israel Women's Network and the Union of Local Authorities. Among the recipients of awards were the Karmiel Municipality, the Ministry for Construction and Housing and the Isrotel Hotel chain. Of the senior positions in the Karmiel Municipality, 60 percent are held by women. In the Housing and Construction Ministry the ratio, while quite high in relation to other ministries, is still just below the equality balance standing at 45%. At Isrotel, it's exactly right with senior positions divided on a 50/50 basis between men and women.