Male Lawmaker to Head Israeli Panel for Advancing Women’s Status

Still, Oded Forer of right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu has the support of the head of his party’s women’s forum and of Labor legislator Merav Michaeli

Jonathan Lis
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Yisrael Beiteinu's Oded Forer
Yisrael Beiteinu's Oded ForerCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jonathan Lis

The opposition is drawing criticism for tapping MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu) to head the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality – he is set to be the second man ever to head the panel.

The nomination still needs approval at the committee’s first meeting. Likud’s Gideon Sa’ar headed the panel in 2006, and Forer is the only man to be a member of the committee in the previous Knesset.

Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), the committee's previous chief,  condemned the move to appoint someone from the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, which is led by Avigdor Lieberman.

Touma-Sliman wrote that the committee aims for “equality, social justice and structural change of hierarchies,” but it is likely to be headed “by Yisrael Beiteinu and the right, which espouse discrimination and a trampling on weak groups, disenfranchising them.”

She said she “hopes MK Forer will listen to the voice of women and meet the challenges of working with heterogenous groups in society, including those he’s used to inciting against.”

Forer is considered a diligent lawmaker but does not have much experience in advancing women’s rights. Previous heads of the committee stood out in the fight against discrimination against women, including Limor Livnat of Likud, Yael Dayan of Labor and Aliza Lavie of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.

MK Merav Michaeli (Labor), a committee member, supports the appointment of Forer. “We have said for years that men must join the feminist struggle, the struggle for equality,” she wrote.

“Men are also responsible for the situation and have something to gain from change. And here comes a man to head the committee. So, do we disqualify him for the job just because he's a man?”

On Yisrael Beiteinu’s Twitter account, the head of the party’s women’s forum, Limor Magen, welcomed the nomination. She said Forer had a “rich record of parliamentary work and advancing initiatives and projects in a wide variety of fields.”

She wrote that in the Knesset sworn in on March 31, 2015, “party members initiated a bill that included “assisting women who have lived in battered women’s shelters, requiring workplaces to appoint a director for handling sexual-harassment issues, and funding fertility treatment for women who have been refused a divorce.

“I am totally confident that MK Forer and the other party members will work extensively to advance the rights and status of women in Israel and lead the committee to many important achievements.”

For his part, Forer said “the fight for advancing the status of women and gender equality is a social struggle, and should be seen as one. I’m glad this committee is finally grabbing headlines, even if it’s because of the surprise that a man can also lead in this sphere in the Knesset.”

He said a preoccupation “with the gender identity of the candidate for heading the committee only distances us from a debate on truly important issues like violence against women, discrimination against women in the workplace, especially self-employed women, and many other issues I’m sure I’ll be able to navigate and take the lead in advancing in the Knesset.”

On Sunday, the Knesset House Committee announced the planned heads of other committees to be controlled by the opposition, including MK Mansour Abbas (Joint List) to lead the special committee for battling crime in the Arab community. MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid-Telem) has already been chosen to head the most important committee the opposition controls, the State Control Committee.

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