A recent survey found that 77 percent of the Israeli public can’t see a woman as defense minister for years to come, and 60% have the same feeling about the chief of the Mossad.
The poll, conducted by Dialog of behalf of the Women’s International Zionist Organization among 500 Israeli adults, explored opinions on which gender is better at filling various government roles
While 70% don’t reject the idea of a female prime minister, the clear majority can’t picture a woman in charge of the Defense Ministry or the Mossad within the next decade. A female Israeli “M” — the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, played by Dame Judi Dench in the most recent James Bond movies? Not yet, apparently.
A third of those polled responded that the Treasury is also beyond the reach of women. However, 60% said they could see a woman filling the more diplomatic and ceremonial role of president.
The poll shows that the public is also divided in its opinion on how well women can deal with five current matters of national concern: the Iranian threat, peace negotiations, improving health service and welfare, reducing poverty, and tackling public-sector corruption.
When it comes to dealing with Iran, 55% think a man can do the job better and only 7% would like to see a woman handle Tehran. Among women, 60% said they feel a man would be better in resolving the Iranian matter, while a third of women said they didn’t think there would be a difference between the sexes.
Nearly half the participants, 45%, said that in peace negotiations there is no difference between men and women, but a third still prefer to see a man at the table while only 14% prefer to see a woman.
On social and culture matters, the numbers showed a significant reversal. Only 12% think a man can deal with health issues better than a woman, and 40% preferred to see a female handling welfare against 15% in favor of a man.
“The survey paints a gloomy picture of the way public opinion is influenced both by the reality of the political system, which is complacent with a weak representation of women in all government institutes, and the process of government,” said Gila Oshrat, chairperson of WIZO Israel, the largest women’s organization in the country.
In the upcoming general elections, women stand at the helm of three parties: Shelly Yachimovich for Labor, Tzipi Livni of Hatuna and Zahava Gal-on in Meretz. However, the highest-ranking woman on the joint list of Likud-Yisrael Beytenu is MK Sofa Landver of Yisrael Beytenu, in the 10th spot, and the next highest is Likud’s MK Tzipi Hotovely in 15th.
WIZO notes that although 52% of Israeli’s population is female, women make up only 20% of current MKs, putting the country in 76th place for female representation among world parliaments.
Opinions varied on how to strengthen female representation in senior government roles. Fifty-two percent are against reserving places specifically for women, and 45% support affirmative action.
Just over half, 51% of the poll’s participants, said they think that women don’t go into politics because it is a career that makes too many demands at the expense of family life. However, 20% said they believe woman stay out of politics because it is a man’s game.
Israel’s only female prime minister was Golda Meir, who held office from 1969 till 1974. She was the third woman in the world to serve in that role.
In May 2011, head of manpower Orna Barbivai was the first woman to receive the rank of major general and a posting in the IDF General Staff. The army is traditionally a springboard to politics, with high-ranking officers sought after by many parties.
Former pentagon policy chief Michèle Flournoy is currently being seriously considered by the Obama administration as a replacement for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.