Women up, Sephardim down in Knesset's incoming class

Although a quarter of the incoming MKs are newcomers, many are familiar with the spotlight.

Behind the headlines and power struggles among the major parties, a quiet first was accomplished Tuesday when Hanin Zuabi was elected as the first woman to represent an Arab party in the Knesset. Zuabi will be joined by an additional seven women newcomers, bringing the total number of women in the Knesset to 21. This is by far the largest number of women ever in the legislative body, up by four from the previous Knesset. Zuabi will be one of 30 freshmen lawmakers in the 18th Knesset, but among the newcomers, many are no strangers to the spotlight - the list includes one former chief of staff, Moshe 'Bogey' Ya'alon, two former IDF spokespeople - Miri Regev (Likud) and Nachman Shai (Kadima); four media personalities - Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor), Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu), Tzipi Hotobeli (Likud) and Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi). Danny Ayalon, who had been guaranteed a place in Knesset with his number eight placement on Israel Beiteinu's list, will merely be exchanging one government service for another, concluding a long career in the Foreign Ministry that included service as Israel's ambassador to the United States and office director for Israel's embassy to the United Nations. Incoming Kadima MK Ze'ev Bielski will be able to exchange notes on overseas visits with Ayalon - in addition to a 17-year stint as Ra'anana mayor, Bielski has served since 2005 as the chairman of the Jewish Agency. Another six of the incoming members are anything but newcomers to the Knesset - Likud's Dan Meridor, Ayoub Kara, Gila Gamliel, Leah Nass and Benny Begin, as well as Israel Beiteinu's Uzi Landau - a former Likud MK and minister - all are returning to the Knesset after periods of parliamentary unemployment, but will be happy to find that since they left, the new wing that has been dedicated will ensure them much more roomy offices than they had in their previous terms of service. As usual, educators, political scientists and attorneys dominated the incoming class, although what some wags call the "Pnina Rosenblum" spot for a former model will be filled this session by Israel Beiteinu's Orly Levy. Levy, whose father David Levy was a longtime figure on the political scene, also has a law degree, but is better known for her career as a model and television personality on Channel 10. Levy, who was parodied during the campaign by satirical TV program Wonderful Country as running on the single issue of discrimination against Sephardi Jews, might have a thing or two to say about the fact that although Sephardim represent over half of Israel's Jewish population, only one-third of the incoming class of MK's are of Sephardi or Mizrahi heritage.