Influential women in Israeli politics

In less than a month, on January 22, there will be general elections in Israel. 34 parties have declared their candidacy for 120 spots in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. The threshold for a party to enter the legislative body is currently 2%, so in reality, most of the parties running will not receive enough votes to secure a seat. Out of the less than ten parties that are likely to get in, three are led by women, all three from the center and left of the political spectrum. The Labour partys’ Sheli Yechimovitz is a former journalist whos agenda focuses on social justice. Tzippi Livni, a former lawyer and current opposition-leader, will lead her newly formed party Hatnua on a centrist, mainly political platform, pushing negotiations for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and liberal economical meassures. Zahava Galon is a former teacher and long-time politicians and heads the leftist Meretz party, whos main cause is a speedy end to what her party considers Israeli occupation of the West Bank. All three are mothers, none of them can be suspected of getting to the top by being decorative.


Photo: (från Wikipedia) from left: Sheli Yechimovitz, Tzippi Livni och Zahava Galon.


Just like in everything else, there are trends in politics. In addition to the mainstream parties, there is an Israeli Pirate Party that promotes free sharing of contents in cyber-space, which might actually get in, there are two green parties and one that wishes to legalise dope. There are also a whole slew of parties particular to our part of the globe, religious Jews, more religious Jews, religious Moslems, more religious Moslem etc. Out of four Arab parties running, one is lead by a woman, the Arab-Israeli journalist Asma Agbarria, who, as far as I can see, is the only female party-leader in the Middle East. Don’t worry, she won’t get in. There is whole bunch of centrist parties that have popped up and try to entice the electorate with celebrities, polls and slogans. As you may detect, I’m not so impressed. I’m looking for a leader of deep convictions and firm principles, one who doesn’t look at the polls to see what he thinks. Or she thinks. One who doesn’t switch allegiances and alliances. The last few months have seen a lot of movements between parties; truly politics proves to be the art of the impossible.

I’m not happy about these elections at all. Unless something really radical happens (and if you live in Israel that may not be so pleasant, we have some really annoying neighbours) it is rather certain that the currently ruling Likud right-wing party will win again. But such is the democratic process.

So what will I vote for? Spoiler alert! Well, I’m not going to tell you, and besides, I haven’t quite decided. Whichever party I will end up voting for, it will be left of center, and it will be an old-fashioned ideology- based political party, not an interest group. Parties representing narrow interest-groups are bad for society, and stupid on the part of the individual voter. They are there to promote one specific interest of the voters who send them. If you can get enough people to prioritize a particular issue, then a simple head-count can vote it through, regardless of its general importance and implications for society. The thing is that people are not only one thing, pensioners, farmers, religiously conservative. We are all obliged to think beyond our own narrow interests to those of the society we live in. I think one needs to vote for a party that has a coherent vision for the future, and not just a single cause, no matter how noble, for which they need a bigger budget.

So the one fact I’m happy about in these elections is the high visibility of women. Full equality between the sexes is still a long way off, but having a number of competent and influential women on center stage is surely a step in the right direction. I hope the presence of women will promote equality, not because it’s good for me, but because it’s good for everybody. Just like peace.

So in this Holiday Season, Merry Christmas, and Peace on Earth

Noomi Stahl