Security Council-"Women and Peace and Security"
H.E. Mr. Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN
Thank you, Madame President. I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his remarks. I would also like to thank Under-Secretary-General Bachelet for her briefing and her leadership on the pressing issues before us.
Today this Council takes up a debate that is very important to the Jewish State and the Jewish People.
Our sages often remind us of the story of Miriam, who was Moses' sister and Judaism's first female prophet. As the Jewish people wandered through the desert for forty years, Miriam sustained them with a well that supplied fresh and plentiful water. Upon her death, the well dried up and disappeared. The message of her story is clear. Empowered women are the lifesource for thriving communities. Prosperity comes when society ensures that women are allowed to lead. It evaporates when their rights are restricted.
These principles have been an integral part of the State of Israel since its inception. Gender equality is enshrined in our 1948 Declaration of Independence. It has been implemented through law and public policy, starting with a landmark and comprehensive piece of legislation in 1951, known as the Equal Rights for Women Law. More than forty years ago, Golda Meir became Israel's Prime Minister – making my country just the third in the world to elect a woman to its highest office.
This year, the Israeli parliament enacted a new law as part of our implementation of resolution 1325, requiring that all government investigative committees include an appropriate representation of women. By law, women must be included on Israeli negotiating teams.
In a region where women are too often excluded from public life, Israeli women stand out as leaders in law, politics, mediation and conflict prevention and resolution. The opposition in the Israeli parliament is headed by a woman, Tzipi Livni. She also led the Israeli negotiating team with the Palestinians as the former Foreign Minister. Another woman, Sheli Yechimovich was recently elected to lead the Israeli Labour party.
In Israel, we take pride in the fact that approximately half of our internationally renowned judiciary is made up of women, including our Supreme Court, which is lead by Justice Dorit Beinish. Women also occupy senior positions in our Defense Establishment. This year Major General Orna Barbivai made history when she was elevated to the second highest rank in the Israel Defense Forces.
As part of our commitment to implementing resolution 1325, Israel's Government holds workshops to promote dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian women at the Mount Carmel International Training Center in Haifa. More than 650 Israeli and Palestinian women have participated in more than 20 workshops over the past eight years. These seminars provide women with the tools and understanding to promote peace and non-violence. A wide range of projects like these are now underway in Israel.
We must recognize the clear connection between advancing peace and advancing equal rights for women. Across many corners of the Middle East today, women are prohibited from driving, from voting, from receiving inheritance, from getting an education, and from traveling alone in public. The subjugation of women in our region cannot be ignored. It is a major obstacle for creating real understanding between cultures and building sustainable peace.
Peace begins at home. Children learn the values of tolerance and understanding first and foremost from those who raise them – and usually from their mothers. We must recognize that when women are subjugated – and denied access to education— these important values are damaged and lost. Empowered women hold together healthy families, build strong societies and serve as the most important bridges to other cultures.
Peace in the Middle East – and around the world – depends on empowering women and ensuring their equal rights. Women can – and should – lead the way to peace, but they must be given the opportunities to sit in the driver's seat. The international community has a duty to remove the obstacles from their path, so that we can build the foundation of a brighter future.