Opposition head Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak found some common ground on Monday, as both argued in a Knesset hearing that Israel still needs to advance the role of women in peace negotiations.
While Barak offered Livni a vague compliment, hinting at her inclusion in future negotiations, Livni argued that including women in the peace talks was not merely a gesture toward gender equality, but would be in Israel's national interest.
“It is women's right to determine their future and that of the country, and their power is first and foremost political. The struggle is over presence in decision-making chambers – the decisions concerning peace and war and touching upon all of Israel's citizens, men and women,” Livni told MKs during the joint hearing of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Committee for the Advancement of Women.
The session marked the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which called upon all countries to increase women's representation at all levels of conflict resolution.
“For a long period, there was a need to struggle for women's rights to make decisions on security-related subjects, which was taken less for granted then their rights to make decisions on matters of peace,” Livni continued.
“The idea that a woman makes decisions regarding the babysitter while the man makes security decisions is not acceptable to me – not on a personal level and not on a national level,” she asserted.
“This struggle begins with women's own understanding that we can, and the public's understanding that it is not just a matter of women's rights, but is in the best interest of the State of Israel.”
Barak noted that “today there are no longer negotiations, and it is not unthinkable that when there are, we will add a woman.” He added that “in that case, I prefer Tzipi Livni and not [Likud MK] Tzipi Hotovely.”
He emphasized that he believed that women's situations in Israel were “good,” although he noted that while “we have many problems with women's rights, and we need to extend a helping hand – unfair salaries, violence, women harmed in their career path,” there was also “a very large women's presence in many organizations in Israel.”
Barak referred specifically to the composition of the Turkel Commission – the subject of a Supreme Court challenge due to the panel's lack of women – saying that the commission had initially turned to a number of women.
The Monday hearing was initiated by MK Einat Wilf (Labor), who called upon the prime minister to fulfill the obligations of the UN resolution in light of the fact that “confronting the challenge of delegitimization of Israel demands airing different perspectives, approaches, and creative and non-conventional points of view. The integration of senior women in the decision- making process will ensure that.”
Not all of the MKs present, however, were convinced that the government must take further steps to advance the role of women in peace talks.
“When the prime minister takes his wife with him to negotiations, that doesn't count?” asked MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas). “It is very respectable, for the prime minister's wife to be with him.
“I think that women aren't discriminated against in this issue,” he continued. “One needs to take it seriously when people say that women face discrimination, because they accompany the politicians hand in hand.”