Dalia Itzik / Knesset Gets First Female Speaker

If the Knesset approves Kadima MK Dalia Itzik as Knesset speaker, as it is expected to do Thursday, she will be the first woman to fill the role. As Knesset speaker, Itzik would also be deputy state president.

"Knesset speaker is a wonderful post and a very influential one," Itzik told Haaretz at the end of January.

Itzik says she is looking forward to revamping the position. Many Knesset workers have had reservations about Itzik's appointment, fearing she would impose harsher discipline on the Knesset and appoint a plenum director general.

Itzik wanted to be Knesset speaker for several reasons. First, she realized she had few chances of receiving a senior portfolio in Kadima leader Ehud Olmert's cabinet because she had lost her position as the ruling party's first woman.

Second, the Knesset will be at the center of the political and public debate when the government decides whether to pull out of dozens of West Bank settlements, and the speaker will have a major role moderating the debate. Third, she is determined to raise the standards of the Knesset, whose image has been tainted by some of its members in the previous term.

Itzik asked Olmert for the position of Knesset speaker three months ago. Since then she has persuaded Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Uri Shani to pressure Olmert to appoint her.

An ambitious politician from humble beginnings, Itzik, 53, steadily climbed to the top of the Labor Party, where she was the first woman for years.

Beginning her career in the 13th Knesset, Itzik has served as minister of environment, and industry and trade, and most recently communications. In November 2005 she quit Labor and joined Kadima, expressing confidence in then-leader Ariel Sharon's ability to promote the peace process.