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Does anyone believe that Gilad Shalit would still be held captive if fifty of the Knesset Members were women?


By Daphna Golan

The women's organizations were mistaken when they approached Meretz chairman Haim Oron to secure a high place for MK Zahava Gal-On on his party's slate. They should have requested all three top slots for women. Because although Gal-On is a brave, committed, honest, smart and hardworking MK, she won't bring about much-needed change. The Israeli left needs many more women for that to happen.


The failure of Meretz is resounding, and perhaps it's high time to acknowledge that the ousting of women from its ranks is a major contributing factor; a telling fact is the large migration of Meretz voters to Tzipi Livni's Kadima. Women constitute a strong majority in the Israeli peace movement, human rights organizations and NGOs for social change, but the left-wing parties appear to believe they can do without women at the top of their lists. The left's failure should mark the end of its male-dominated era in which men pushed the women down to unelectable spots on party lists. Parties that call themselves leftist but fail to put a woman in the top three slots on the list don't deserve the name.


But it's not only Meretz and Labor, who chose women for fifth, 9th and 13th places. Even Hadash, a party that incorporates equality in its name, is represented in the new Knesset by four men. Its leadership would be wise to evacuate two of the seats for the impressive women in fifth and sixth place on their party's slate, Aida Touma-Suleiman and Nurit Hajaj.


Women working on their own in a tough, male system find it very difficult to promote their concepts of justice and new social agendas. In Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, the women's struggle for representation won the day and changed the political map completely. Israel reached a new record of 21 woman MKs last month, but the male-to-female ratio is still more than five to one.


This is why the women's organizations should not be aiming to promote one woman, wonderful though she may be, but

Daphna Golan-Agnon


to promote many women at once, allowing them to lead toward a different kind of politics. Only womanly, dovish, equitable leadership - focused on dialogue, education and welfare - can bring us hope. Women like Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir, operating within male-dominated systems, have only done damage to both their countries and women in general. They were playing by men's rules, allowing their parties to present themselves as equitable when in reality they were far from it. Even if Livni will not become prime minister, the 2009 elections proved that the combination of women and peace is a winning one; that male and female voters alike wanted a woman to take the reigns. And Livni herself, the same woman who just now supported a cruel and unnecessary war in Gaza, and urged men to keep fighting even after hundreds of innocents died, knew she should start talking peace when the elections came. She, Kadima and its many constituents realized that the time of women has arrived.


Israel needs many women in the Knesset to make a difference - to close the rifts between rich and poor, fix the crumbling education system, heal the socioeconomic ills of society, end the occupation and build a future of peace through dialogue and reconciliation.


Until now, men on the left and the right have been running the country and didn't do very well. It's time for women. Does anyone believe that Gilad Shalit would still be held captive if 50 of the MKs were women?


Dr. Daphna Golan-Agnon is a peace and human rights activist and scholar. She is currently Senior Researcher at the Minerva Center for Human Rights in Jerusalem. This article originally appeared in Ha'aretz on 3 March 2009.

Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. - Groucho Marx