Energy Ministry Refusing to Include Women in Gas Deal Implementation Panel

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Off Haifa coast, oil rig at enormous Leviathan natural gas field.
An oil rig in the Leviathan natural gas field off the Haifa coast.Credit: Albatross

The National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry is refusing to include women on the team that will implement the country’s natural gas policy even though it is required to do so by law.

The ministry is basing its decision on the grounds that the team “does not set policy,” but the move contravenes equal opportunity law and rulings by the High Court of Justice. Only the team’s coordinator is a woman.

“The team’s job is not to formulate policy but to implement the framework and government policy that has already been set on the issue,” the ministry’s director general, Shaul Meridor, said in an internal memo obtained by Haaretz.

“Given this, while we believe that it is worthy and desirable to include the proper representation of women in any significant government forum, our position is that under these circumstances, the makeup of the team in question meets legal requirements.”

Only two years ago, the Sheshinski Committee, which also dealt with the gas plan, added four women to the panel – a response to a petition to the High Court of Justice.

Since the new team was set up two months ago with seven men and no women, social justice groups and the Israel Women’s Network have asked the ministry to change the roster. They have been joined by the chairman of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women, MK Aida Touma Suliman (Joint Arab List), and the government minister responsible for social equality, Gila Gamliel,

“The team is responsible for the future of Israel’s society and economy, and its influence encompasses men and women of all population groups,” wrote Neta Levy, a lawyer for Women Lawyers for Social Justice.

“The team’s jobs are not merely technical, but jobs that have broad public influence, including the development of policy. It’s curious that for a team set up only two years after the Sheshinski Committee, and on the same topic, the minister did not see fit to obey the law.”

Meridor noted that the clerical and logistical work for the committee was being done by a woman. “The team’s work is being coordinated by Ms. Noa Litmanovitz, my senior adviser, who was appointed to that position by the minister,” he wrote.

But while Litmanovitz's role may be very significant, it does not give her  voting rights on the team and therefore does not fulfill legal requirements.

“Recently there has been regression in implementing the law on government committees, and it seems this government does not care about equal representation for women,” Levy said, adding that her group was weighing whether to go to court.

According to an amendment to the Equal Rights for Women Law that was legislated a decade ago, “On a public committee or team appointed by the government, the prime minister, minister, deputy minister or ministry director general must give proper expression under the circumstances to women’s representation.”

A report by the Authority for the Advancement of Women’s Status shows that many government ministries maintain a significant male majority against the law. In 2014, women comprised 37.9 percent of government committees, compared with 39.4 percent the year before. But in 2009 the number was only 23 percent. 

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