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Israel Election Results: Far-right Party's Demand Highlights Israel's Longstanding Neglect of Equality for Women

Israel is marching backward and has elected to the Knesset people who want to literally send women back to the kitchen

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Noam lawmaker Avi Maoz
Noam lawmaker Avi MaozCredit: Noam
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

The Noam Party, supposedly acting independently of the Religious Zionism ticket it ran on in the election, has made a jumble of outrageous demands as a condition to joining a coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One of them was a mysterious clause packed with numbers that raised particular attention. It was the demand to “amend Cabinet Resolution 2331, which requires state institutions to act according to the UN’s Resolution 1325.”

It is a very specific demand involving a cabinet resolution that most Israelis have unfortunately never heard of, and which isn’t sufficiently implemented either. Its essence is advancing women’s representation in central decision-making procedures at the top levels of government.

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The resolution is based on the UN’s Security Council’s historic resolution in 2000, seeking to advance among member states a more egalitarian participation of women in power hubs, and especially in peace and security processes, where the gap between their influence on women and women’s influence on them is extremely noticeable.

After years of public and legal struggle waged by organizations like Itach Ma’aki (Women Lawyers for Social Justice task force), Women Wage Peace and Forum Dvorah, Israel decided to advance a similar resolution, albeit considerably later than many other states in the world, in 2014.

Cabinet Resolution 2331 was entitled “Advancing gender equality and embedding gender awareness” – a progressive word sequence that drives Noam members out of their minds. The resolution’s content consists of a general plan to strive for gender equality and for encouraging gender-aware government activity. The resolution also gave the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women several roles to implement its objectives.

The key word in this resolution is “advancing.” Everything is about striving, monitoring and reporting, rather than setting clear, measurable objectives and results. Indeed, this is what has transpired. Since then, despite the important progress that this resolution stood for in principle, women are, to say the least, under-represented in the decision-making process. The resolution simply has no teeth.

For example, women were under-represented in all of the recent peace processes negotiated as part of the so-called Abraham Accords. After all, a prime minister who excludes even his defense and foreign ministers from these processes certainly doesn’t give a hoot about some ancient resolution about women’s representation.

Religious Zionism celebrations after exit polls were published on Election Day, last month Credit: Rami Shllush

The coronavirus pandemic is also an example of the cabinet’s decision-making process failing to have equal representation of women, who, according to all the figures, were the main victims of the economic crisis.

Exactly 20 years after the UN resolution, the group of experts formed by the National Security Council to deal with the pandemic initially consisted of 31 members, with the only two women being research assistants. There's no point in even discussing military and major defense bodies’ top brass, or so-called civilian institutions like the National Security Council, or political bodies like the security cabinet.

Equal membership of women in these forums currently seems like a fantasy that no cabinet resolution could turn into reality.

Regardless of implementation, it was no coincidence that the radical Noam Party pulled out these random figures today in the negotiations over joining a coalition. To them, the resolution stands for precisely the progressive thinking they came to fight.

In an interview with the Makor Rishon newspaper last month, the party’s Knesset candidate Avi Maoz said Noam's goal is to fight anything carrying the scent of “modern” values. This naturally includes, apart from blatant homophobia, misogyny as well. Or as Maoz put it in the interview with Atara German, women’s greatest contribution to the state should be “that they get married, God willing, and raise a fine family.” Such statements were previously made by the party's spiritual mentor, Zvi Thau. The party was simply looking for legislative hooks to hold onto to symbolize the struggle, while taking care not to demand things that could be seen as an overly brutal intrusion into the private sphere. A few random figures whose meaning no one understands are a good beginning for them on this journey.

But Noam isn’t only troubled by the general principle advancing equality for women. It is especially concerned about anything that hints at promoting women in the military and other defense-related bodies. The fact that numerous women in progressive organizations stand behind the resolution also bothers them. The party wants to thwart any involvement of and initiative by important bodies like Forum Dvorah – an organization uniting women in senior positions in Israel’s defense and foreign affairs bodies, past and present.

So while more than 80 countries worldwide have adopted and implemented national plans to carry out Resolution 1325, even countries such as the UAE, Israel is marching backward and has elected to the Knesset people who want to send women back to the kitchen – literally.

It’s not enough to be angry at Noam alone. Neglect of the resolution’s implementation and women’s under-representation in the state’s top institutions, even in the current Knesset, occurred even without the party. If the bloc of parties opposed to Netanyahu really wanted to object to this stance, beyond making slogans, it should have ensured an appropriate response by actually implementing the resolution. Meanwhile, every mother and daughter should know that this could be the face of Netanyahu’s next government, if it is formed.

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