Analysis by Rachel Avraham on the Israeli Municipal Elections
Mayor Lizzie Delricce Photo Credit: Lizzie Delricce Campaign
Women represent roughly fifty percent of the human population. Nevertheless, in Israel, like in most countries across the globe, the female gender is only marginally represented in the political world, which remains a largely male domain. Still, in the last Knesset elections, there was progress in regards to gender equality in the political sphere. 27 women were elected to serve in the Knesset, which is significantly better than only having 21 women in the Knesset, as was the case prior to the last Knesset elections.
However, the recent municipality election results were a major disappointment to all of those who care about female participation in politics. Only four women presently serve now as mayors in Israel. Netanya’s Mayor Miriam Feirberg-Ikar was reelected to her post after winning 72% of the vote, while Lizzie Delricce was recently elected to head the Ganei Tikva Municipality. In Yehud, Yaela Miklis is running against incumbent Mayor Yossi Ben David in a second round of elections. The race there is still not determined.
Furthermore, two female mayors remain in power because there were no elections in those municipalities yesterday. Arad’s Mayor Tali Ploskov and Mayor of the Bnei Shimon Local Authority, Sigal Moran, are still in office. The Jerusalem Post reported that presently only 4 out of Israel’s 256 municipalities are led by women, implying that just 1.6% of Israeli mayors are women.
This remains to be the situation, despite the fact that the Israeli political system is designed in such a way to give female candidates an advantage while running for office. The Yesh Atid Party in the last elections insisted that almost 50% of their candidates would be women. Additionally, Likud, Labor and the Bayit Ha-Yehudi Party saved slots for women. These policies were behind the increased number of female MK’s following the last national elections.
Furthermore, many political parties allow candidates to run as new women, which along with being an immigrant or young permits candidates to receive preferential rankings on party lists. For many female candidates, such affirmative action is their only chance to have a decent shot at being elected in the highly male dominated political world. Female candidates need this sort of help not because there is official gender discrimination in Israel, since equality of the sexes is guaranteed under Israeli law.
Israeli women candidates require this assistance because the nature of Israeli society is that women, who frequently never served in combat positions in the army, are viewed by many people in the public to be less qualified than x-warriors, even if the woman has a wonderful campaign platform and possesses excellent work experience in other areas. Additionally, there are certain segments of the religious public who are ideologically opposed to women’s involvement in politics, although these segments of the Israeli public only represent a small fraction of Israel’s religious population.
For this reason, many don’t feel that the mechanisms in place are sufficient. Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women chairwoman Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) believes that female representation on party lists should be legally mandated and she is presently promoting a bill that would penalize political parties that lack female candidates. Lavie told the Jerusalem Post, “Only two women out of 191 municipalities is a catastrophic number. It cannot be that over half of the public in Israel has less than 1% representative in local councils.” Whether this policy is implemented or another proposal to increase female participation in Israeli politics is proposed, action is required to ensure that fifty percent of the Israeli public has a voice in how the cities that they reside in are governed.