For the first time ever, the Knesset has placed an Arab lawmaker at the helm of a permanent committee, with the appointment of Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint Arab List as chairwoman of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality Wednesday.
Touma-Sliman was voted to head the committee unanimously by the panel’s four other members.
The appointment is a sign of the newfound political power of the Joint List, which won 13 Knesset seats after two Arab parties and one joint Jewish-Arab party banded together ahead of elections earlier this year.
Touma-Sliman is a member of the Hadash Party and the number five lawmaker on the Joint List.
“I hope that we will successfully lead a process that will impact the whole of society, its policies and laws,” she said. “This is the first time that there is in the government a minister for gender equality and I hope that together it will produce results we have waited for for a long time.”
Touma-Sliman was referring to the Likud party’s Gila Gamliel who is serving as minister of gender equality, minorities and senior citizens — one of only three women in the new cabinet.
Though a Knesset freshman, Touma-Sliman said she had been sitting in on committee sessions since 1992 and hoped that those experiences would inform her work in the Knesset.
The committee deals with advancing the place of women in society, including combating violence against women and reducing socioeconomic gaps.
Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal, who will also sit on the committee, commended her appointment.
“I congratulate [her]” on the milestone,” he wrote on Twitter.
Touma-Sliman is also only the fourth Arab Israeli woman to serve as a member of the Knesset, joining Hussniya Jabara (Meretz), Hanin Zoabi (Joint Arab List) and and Nadia Hilou (Labor) who was also the first female Christian MK.
“”We are proud of [her] achievement and that we nominated her unanimously on account of her personal record,” party colleague MK Ahmad Tibi said.
Touma-Sliman is the former editor of the Arabic-language daily Al-Ittihad. She lives in Acre and has two children.