She Can Do It

Golda Meir, fourth Prime Minister of Israel

In the era of political activism and socialistic progressiveness, it would be expected of governments to increase diversity in political representation. When compared internationally, although Israel is considered well situated on the spectrum of female representation in government, the 2019 national elections illustrated the disregarded significance of female representation in political life.

With 2019 at the wake of the global #MeToo campaign, one would have expected a general transformation regarding the stance of women in politics. Nonetheless, the 2019 election campaigns have proven once again that Israel stands far off Western values. In the campaigns, certain subjects prominent to women and their status didn’t concern the general public, political, or media discourse. As such, the much-heated debate on the eradication of violence against women that has swept the country months prior to the elections was silent during the abundant campaigning. Subsequently, why should the Israeli public elect women to the Knesset?

Israel is a democratic country operating via a representative democracy indicating that people choose who will represent them within the government. Hitherto, due to the lack and under-representation of women in politics, it impairs the essences of representation which is the fundamental principle of representative democracy. According to Pipa Norris’s article on ‘women politicians’, the lack of any participant that is a considerable part of society within political life destabilizes the democratic legitimacy of the government and the public trust in them.

Consequently, according to the IDI’s research on female representation, if only 18% of the Knesset are women, one could easily argue that not only is half of the population not endorsing the Israeli government policies, but that they do not have a chance to voice their concerns as well due to the lack of representation.

The prominence of women in the political arena goes past mainstream questions of proper representation. Women have the ability to bring a unique and new perspective into the political realm which may result in the advancement of policies and initiatives. Golda Meir is an excellent example of such women, when as Foreign Minister she promoted ties with the recently founded countries in Africa in an attempt to gain allies in the global arena. The study conducted by Kelly, Saint-Germain, and Horn, was able to prove that women occupying crucial positions within politics can bring a different set of outlooks and attitudes into political life due to the fact that they are differentiated by society through a set of standards such as biological, psychological, sociological gender, and more(Kelly, Saint-Germain, and Horn 1991). Do women have the capability to produce change and efficiency in politics?

Women have the ability to shape a range of policy issues and produce effective solutions in different sectors in political and public life. Volden, Wiseman, and Wittmer stated that an increase in female representation shows an inclination to policy making that emphasizes the quality of life and mirrors the importance of families, minorities, and women. Therefore, the positioning of women in a key role is more likely to result in the advancement of issues that may otherwise not be addressed.

Female Member of Knesset such as Yael German during her tenure as Minister of Health sponsored a series of proposals designed to restore the public healthcare system, to guarantee that every person in Israel can fulfill their right to acceptable healthcare without being dependent on private services.

With the coming and going of the 2019 Israeli elections, Israel has failed to address the critical issue of female representation in politics. To increase the female representation in politics, Israel may need to start changing its perception on who qualifies as a leader. In a country where a former general is more highly regarded than any other social position, it gives a clear advantage to men. If women were and are capable of leading nations through hardships; who’s to say that women today cannot lead Israel through the complexity it faces.

Reference:

Friedberg, C., Kenig, O., & Shapira, A. (2016). The Representation of Women in Israeli Politics: A Comparative Perspective. The Israel Democracy Institute.

Kelly, R. M., Saint-Germain, M. A., & Horn, J. D. (1991). Female Public Officials: A Different Voice? The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science515(1), 77–87. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716291515001007

Norris, P. (1996), Women Politicians: Transforming Westminster?, Parliamentary Affairs, Volume 49, Issue 1, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.pa.a028675

Kenig, O. (2015). Friedberg, C., Kenig, O., & Shapira, A. (2016). The Representation of Women in Israeli Politics: A Comparative Perspective. The Israel Democracy Institute.

Volden, C., Wiseman, A. E., & Wittmer, D. E. (2010). Measuring Legislative Effectiveness. Legislative Effectiveness in the United States Congress,14-59. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139032360.002

Women in Politics: 2017. (2017). The Israel Democracy Institute.

About the Author
Keren Guttman is in her third year of her B.A. in Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center. She is currently participating in the Argov Fellowship for Leadership and Diplomacy, a program that prepares students for future leadership positions in Israel and the world. Keren served in the IDF as a boot camp commander specializing in youth in distress. Keren enrolled at IDC for a B.A. in Government, where she volunteered with the Student Union, served as head of logistics and coach for the IDC Model United Nations Society and competed in an international humanitarian law competition hosted by the ICRC. She also works as a debate and MUN instructor.
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