First Female Arab MK to Run Knesset Committee

Aida Touma-Suliman from Joint Arab List elected chairwoman of Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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An Israeli woman posing for a photo with Joint List candidate Aida Touma-Suliman, at an event held in a Tel Aviv bar.
An Israeli woman posing for a photo with Joint List candidate Aida Touma-Suliman, at an event held in a Tel Aviv bar.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The members of the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women unanimously elected MK Aida Touma-Suliman chairwoman of the panel on Wednesday, making it the first time that a female MK from one of the Arab parties has named the head of a permanent Knesset committee.

Although the Knesset spokesman issued a press release stating it was the first time an Arab MK had chaired a permanent committee, that is not the case; Raleb Majadele (Labor) was chairman of the Interior and Environment Committee from 2005-2007.

As the second-largest party in the opposition, the Joint Arab List had sought a more prestigious chairmanship, that of the State Control Committee. But Knesset officials made it clear to the faction that this wouldn’t be possible because that committee often deals with sensitive security issues. Its chairman, together with the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, serves as the “Committee of Two” that deals with secret matters relating to audits of the defense establishment.

MK Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid) will chair the State Control Committee until May 2017, when she will be replaced by a Zionist Union MK.

Before entering the Knesset, Suliman was the director of the Arab feminist organization Women Against Violence, was one of the founders of the International Women’s Commission for a Just Palestinian-Israeli Peace, and was the first woman on the Supreme Monitoring Committee for Arab Affairs in Israel. Suliman noted Wednesday that she had been attending hearings of the committee she will now head since 1992, and expressed hope for cooperation with the minister responsible for gender equality, Gila Gamliel.

Earlier this week, Eitan Cabel beat out Shelly Yacimovich in an internal Zionist Union vote for the chairmanship of the most powerful committee awarded to the opposition, the Knesset Economic Affairs committee.

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