"Netanyahu and Gantz, connect to your feminine side"- A new campaign protesting low rates of representation of women in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) debuted this week with the release of photoshopped versions of senior Israeli politicians with feminine features and demands from the politicians to promote a series of gender equality policies..

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Hagit Peer, chair of Na'amat, at a conference addressing the place of women with disabilities in the workforce (photo: Israel Malobni)

 

The organization behind the campaign is Na'amat, Israel's largest women's association, which is linked to the Histadrut, the federation of labor unions in Israel. Hagit Pe'er, chair of Na'amat, said that "there were only 27 women MKs in the last parliament [out of 120 total MKs, or 23 percent]. The parliament before that only had 30 women, and before that there were 37. The trend is clear, and we expect it to continue in the upcoming elections. We have decided to raise public awareness of the lack of representation of women and call on all senior politicians to do all they can to promote gender equality."

Pe'er also appealed personally to several heads of parties, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud and his main opponent, Benny Gantz of the Blue-White party. "In the heat of the election campaigns, we seem to have overlooked some key issues including domestic violence, the gender wage gap, promoting viable maternity leave for women at work, and women's political representation. These issues are crucial for both men and women," she said.

Na'amat campaign (photo: Flash90 and Stick Media, courtesy of Na'amat)

In recent years, Israel has fallen in respect to many parameters of gender equality. While just two years ago Israel was ranked 18th worldwide in gender equality level by the World Economic Forum, it is now ranked 64th out of 153 countries.

77% of the public "can imagine a woman as Minister of Defense"

Na'amat has published a poll showing that the Israeli public's opinion of women's role in politics is higher than in many other countries. 90% of Israelis would accept a woman as prime minister. Indeed, Golda Meir was the seventh female head of state to be elected in the world, having served as Israel's first female prime minister between the years 1969-1974.

Prime Minister Golda Meir introducing the new government at a Knesset session in Jerusalem, 1974. (National Archive)

75% of religious Israelis support a female premiership. 77% of the general public would accept a woman as Minister of Defense, a title that has historically been held by men. Within religious communities, 57% would support a woman as Minister of Defense.

The poll also examined equality in the labor market. 70% of Israelis believe that women are treated unfairly in the labor market. 34% of women stated that they have been personally discriminated against at work on the basis of gender, and 64% of those women stated that the discrimination took the form of lower wages compared to male colleagues.

In response to the poll, Pe'er said that "It is time for decision makers in this country to listen to the public. A huge share of the public would like to see women in top positions, which stands in stark opposition to the reality in Israeli politics. A huge share of the public recognizes discrimination in the workplace, and I hope that this will help bring about change. Women make up half of the population and the need for equal rights should be obvious in 2020."