Turkel
The Turkel Committee convening, August 10, 2010. Photo by Pool
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The High Court of Justice would like to see at least one woman on the five-man committee investigating the flotilla raid. In an unusual move, the judicial panel headed by Justice Miriam Naor ordered the government to explore, by August 29, the appointment of a woman to the Turkel Committee. The panel is headed by retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel.

The High Court also ruled that, if by August 29 the government offers to five new female candidates a spot on the committee, and all turn down the post, the government will have fulfilled its obligations under the law on women's equality.

According to a provision included in the ruling, the work of the committee may not be delayed. Justice Naor was joined on the High Court panel by Justices Salim Joubran and Uzi Vogelman.

The case came in response to a petition filed by women's groups who objected to the absence of any females on the panel, which is examining the confrontation in late May between the Israel Navy and activists aboard the Gaza-bound Turkish ship Mavi Marmara which left nine activists dead.

Yesterday's ruling followed an earlier declaration by the state that the committee did not intend to add a woman at this stage as doing so would interfere with its work.

The petitioners contend that the absence of any women on the Turkel panel runs contrary to the law on women's equality, which requires that every public committee or national public policy task force afford a voice to women, among a cross section of population groups.

According to Nurit Tsur, the director of the Israel Women's Network, one of the petitioners in the case, yesterday's ruling sent a message to the government that a genuine effort is being made to find suitable women for public policy committees.

"I wouldn't want a woman to be appointed just because she is a woman," she explained yesterday. "There are so many women whose field of expertise qualifies them for appointment on the Turkel Committee. It won't be difficult to find an appropriate woman."

Tsur added that she doesn't believe women's organizations should assist the state in the process by offering a list of potential candidates. The significance of the court's ruling, according to Tsur, is that future public committees, and not necessarily only those handling security and military policy, will be mindful of appointing women when they are convened.