Woman's Place Is in the Knesset

Article Summary
The same men — mostly Ashkenazi, over 60 years old, former generals and now aging politicians — have been running our lives for 30 years, says feminist writer Billy Moscona-Lerman. Women also have something to say on the matter. Civilian voices in general, she argues, have an important place in foreign affairs and defense decisions, as well as others.

What added value is there in the presence of civilians — men and women from southern Israel — in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, or any other group relating to defense or security?

“What can a woman’s perspective give us?” ask the people in the ivory towers who decide who is next in line for assassination. They are always the same men — mostly Ashkenazi, over 60, former generals and now aging politicians — who for 30 years have been running our lives as though we were marionettes or ducks in shooting practice. They do so through assassinations, attacks, “Iron Dome” activations, explosive launches, targeted aerial bombings or ground shootings, attaching to all of these activities old slogans like “ticking bomb,” “drop the bomb,” “we had no other options,” “it’s intensifying” and “the Holocaust.”

Imagine, just imagine, that in the decision-making process ahead of the assassination of Popular Resistance Committee commander Zuhair Al-Qaisi, over which the entire region burned, the following participants had taken part: Danny and Aviva Zarihoren from Be’er Sheva, who work shifts and tell their 3-year-old daughter to enter the shelter without screaming or crying and remind her to take her one-and-a-half-year-old sister. A widower and father of three small children who lives near Gaza and has opened a new business. A 33-year-old woman from the south who started a new job with an hourly wage: since kindergarten shut down, her children are with her at all times, and her employer not only does not pay her for those hours, but threatens to take away her job. And a couple of parents with a baby girl who live in a village near Ashkelon: the husband has returned from a week in the reserves and the woman manages educational programs. She has also started a new job and runs like the wind from day care to work and a nighttime meeting to appear on time smiling. To this end she has enlisted friends and babysitters, the most important things being not missing work and not neglecting the baby.

Let’s assume, just assume, that in the same secret meeting in which the assassination was ordered, 10 civilian representatives from the area took part, each one describing what would await him or her following such an assassination. And in the meeting, there was also a government accountant, employers from the private and public sector, educators, psychologists and social workers. A decision on military action would take into account all of these aspects, and would have only been made after a careful examination of all of the economic, employment, emotional and social factors relevant to the local population. Would that not have been wiser, more democratic?

What do you know about security?

In 2004, Shinui MK Eti Livni was asked of which Knesset committee she would like to be a member, and she answered, “the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.” “Eti, my dear,” Shinui party leader Tommy Lapid answered, laughing, “what do you know about security?” “And you, Tommy,” she answered without skipping a beat, “What do you know?”

Livni was one of the first women MKs in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Ariel Sharon was prime minister at the time, and liked to sit and update the committee for hours, ultimately saying, “Oh, it’s so lovely here, I love coming here.”

“If it’s so nice for you here,” MK Eti Livni once said, “That’s a sign that we’re not doing our job correctly. This isn’t a council of sages that is meant to nod at the prime minister, but rather criticize him, ask him hard questions and make things difficult for him, make him uncomfortable, make him squirm until he gives answers. We need to represent, in this committee, the citizens on the home front.”

The committee was then comprised of settler representatives from Judea and Samaria, and high-ranking former military officials Avi Dichter, Moshe Ya’alon and Shaul Mofaz. “I saw,” Livni says, “the winks between Sharon and the settlers, who led the committee by its nose.” Today, she says, the situation has changed little.

On October 13, 2000, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1325, which recognizes that women, girls and children are the primary victims of military activity that takes place in civilian areas, and that there is therefore a need to incorporate women into decision-making processes on political and security issues. In 2007, MK Eti Livni and Yuli Tamir, along with the organization Isha L’Isha (Woman to Woman) and Tzipi Livni, led the advancement of Law 1325 in the Knesset. On the basis of this law, the organization Itach (Women Lawyers for Social Justice), along with other women’s organizations, submitted six petitions to the High Court of Justice on matters of women’s representation. This included the Turkel Commission, which examined the 2010 flotilla incident, and the Trajtenberg Committee, which looked into the housing protests of 2011.

On the basis of those petitions and Resolution 1325, Attorney Anat Tahon-Ashkenazi asks: “In the decision on the assassination, why weren’t there people present who maintain the welfare system — a man or a woman who raises three children and takes into account fears and employment, and the family’s economic, physical and emotional situation?”

“Not that I think that Zuheir Al-Qaisi is a righteous gentile,” MK Zahava Gal-On adds. “But I doubt the official line of the IDF spokesman. It has already been publicized in the past that it was not him who was responsible for the attack in Eilat, but rather Egyptian citizens, and now they are saying it was him. There is a lack of trust on the part of the IDF spokesman which insults our memory. So why believe them that he was a ticking bomb? I doubt the wisdom and discretion of the defense minister and prime minister, who ordered this assassination and paralyzed one million people. And if our leaders would look at the world not only through a gun sight but also at a broader picture, I have no doubt that it would be possible to narrow the cycle of violence.”


“This was a disproportionate act, which legitimizes jihad for the Arab public,” says Eti Livni. “Even the abduction of two soldiers didn’t justify the Second Lebanon War. Barak and Netanyahu are dangerous and not careful.”

“Why not sit and try to talk before firing? First exhaust nonviolent alternatives?” asks Israela Oron, formerly an officer in the Women’s Corps and deputy head of the National Security Council. “For me,” she continues, “security is also diplomatic efforts that try to avoid such events, including forming alliances and agreements with actors with whom we would like to avoid escalation. The security establishment is not heterogeneous, everyone is too similar –— see the Bay of Pigs, where white generals could not reach a creative way to get out of the crisis. The monopoly of thought does not reside with military men, and decisions no less important than the "Iron Dome" include whether or not to send our children to kindergarten or to school — you don’t need generals for that.”

Anat Tahon-Ashkenazi, who submitted the High Court petitions on the representation of women in political and security matters, adds that the “UN proved that when women and men who are on the ground participate in decision-making, peace agreements became stable and subject to rehabilitation, and it enables civilians on both sides to continue their lives in peace.”

Found in: women, israel

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