After latest sacking, only 1 of 33 ministries left with a woman as director general

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan plans to appoint male candidate instead of Gali Sembira, citing professional dissatisfaction; also removes her female chief of staff

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan speaks at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan speaks at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan on Sunday fired her ministry’s director general, only one woman remains at the helm of the professional echelon in any of the government’s 33 ministries.

Merav Stern is left as the sole director general in the hard-right government, heading the Advancement of the Status of Women Ministry, led by Minister May Golan.

The former director general of the Public Diplomacy Ministry, Gali Sembira, was in the role for only four months before Distel Atbaryan sacked her earlier this week, blaming “dissatisfaction with her professional performance.”

Hebrew media, however, reported that Distel Atbaryan had bowed to criticism from within her right-wing Likud party, where Sembira was labeled as a “leftist,” in part for speaking out against the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary, which have faced eight months of public backlash.

In Sembira’s place, Distel Atbaryan’s office said she plans to appoint Gadi Margalit, the former head of the Government Advertising Agency, one of the offices through which Distel Atbaryan has said she must work in order to create public diplomacy videos.

Distel Atbaryan also set aside her female chief of staff, Laly Derai.

Merav Stern (via Facebook; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the copyright law)

The shake-up within the ministry comes amid a High Court of Justice case challenging the government’s dearth of women in senior management roles.

In June, the court ordered the state to explain why there were so few women serving as directors general of government ministries.

The court also ordered the government to explain why it has not established guidelines to ensure adequate representation of women in positions of trust, and why the government is not acting immediately to increase female representation among unfilled positions.

At the time, there were two women among 31 appointed directors general.

Screen capture from video of Gali Sembira, March, 2023. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Women’s rights groups and opposition politicians have attacked the current government, which is also light on female ministers, for harming women’s rights.

In addition to unequal representation in halls of power and axing professional leaders, critics point to the diversion of funds away from women’s initiatives, support for religious-led initiatives that infringe upon women’s rights, and the broader judicial overhaul threatening to undermine court-established principles of equality as all having tangible effects on women’s status in Israel.

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