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Prime Minister Golda Meir [R] with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan at the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Israel needs equal diplomatic representation
Women have fought, and continue to fight, for the right to represent their countries as diplomats. The fight for equality was and still is a just cause.
I wonder how many women diplomats there were around the world 50 years ago? One hundred? Almost certainly not one thousand. On Tuesday, in Jerusalem, I had the privilege of hosting over one hundred women diplomats, members of the Women in Diplomacy Network, who serve the State of Israel and who represent their countries in Israel. Being in the company of several ambassadors and even more future ambassadors was a powerful message of how far we have come.

Women have fought, and continue to fight, for the right to represent their countries as diplomats. The fight for equality was and still is a just cause, and the participants in Tuesday’s meeting are proof of its success.

As professional diplomats, they bring greater diversity, a different perspective and fresh thinking to the fields of foreign policy, conflict resolution and international relations. In our complex and challenging world, that has never been more important.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich rightly said, “well-behaved women seldom make history.” We cannot imagine history without the many great and brave women who did not wait for male approval to change the world. But it is not just for women to fight for gender equality. We must all demand it and all work toward it.

Here in Israel, Golda Meir served as an early role model for us – first as our ambassador to the Soviet Union, then as the foreign minister who developed our relations with the United States and with Africa; and as prime minister, she was one of the first women to lead a country.

I hope we will also see a woman president here in the coming years.

We can be proud that Israeli women reach the top – president of the Supreme Court, governor of the Bank of Israel, ministers, party leaders, an IDF general and a Nobel Prize winner, and CEOs of major companies, and we can be proud that our legislation protects the rights of women and guarantees equal opportunities.

But there is still much more to do.

Our government has set a target that women will fill 50% of leadership roles and is working to implement that goal, but we must do more to bring Arab and ultra-Orthodox women into the workforce and to positions of leadership.

In the international arena, Israel led an initiative at the UN to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, but we must do more to implement UN Resolution 1325 “Women, Peace and Security” requiring member states to include more women in decision-making on conflict, foreign policy and security.

And as we approach elections, there is still more to do in political life. I urge all voters, women among them, to make their voices heard by voting. Equal representation in the Knesset is still a long way off, and we must work harder to encourage women to stand for elected office and to make sure there are more women MKs and ministers in future governments.

The writer is the president of the State of Israel.

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