New government has so far appointed zero women as ministry directors general

Out of 31 cabinet ministries, 23 men have been tapped as directors, with only a handful of positions still unfilled; women’s group threatens to go to court over matter

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Members of the new government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for a group photo at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Members of the new government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for a group photo at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Every ministry director general appointed by the new government so far has been a man, angering women’s groups and calling into question its commitment to gender equality.

Out of the 31 ministries in the current government sworn in at the end of December, not one minister has appointed a woman to serve as director general. Twenty-three of the positions have been filled by men. Six directors general have yet to be appointed, and are expected to be named in the coming weeks. Two appointments of male directors general failed to be approved, but men are serving in the positions in the interim.

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer has reportedly indicated he will tap Jordana Cutler, Facebook’s public policy director for Israel, to run his ministry, although no appointment has been officially presented to the cabinet.

Science and Technology Minister Ofer Akunis had intended to appoint former Likud MK Osnat Mark as his ministry’s director, but she withdrew her candidacy after criticism was raised over her lack of relevant experience.

The Israel Women’s Network sent a letter last week to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that the lack of female ministry directors be rectified.

“Such a low representation of women among the directors of government ministries is a blatant violation of the mandate for fair representation,” the organization wrote in the letter, first publicized by the Walla news site.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 3, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The women’s group demanded that Netanyahu respond to their letter “so that we can calculate our next steps and turn to the courts if necessary.”

Of the current 32 ministers in the government (some ministries have multiple ministers, and some ministers have more than one portfolio), six are women: Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman, Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, National Missions Minister Orit Strock and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office May Golan.

The last government had nine women in a cabinet of 27. There were also nine ministry director generals who were women during the most recent coalition — an all-time high.

The two ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition, Shas and United Torah Judaism, have no women on their electoral slates, while the far-right religious Otzma Yehudit has only one. Among the 64 MKs in the coalition when it was sworn in, just nine were women.

In a 2021 study, the Israel Democracy Institute noted that an increase in women in the Knesset and in government corresponded with an increase in legislation supporting women’s interests and needs. The IDI pointed out that in recent years, “Knesset activities aimed at advancing women’s status in society were carried out mainly by female MKs.”

More than a dozen women’s organizations took part in a women-led protest against the current government’s policies on Sunday in Tel Aviv, including the Israel Women’s Network, WIZO and Na’amat.

“We are concerned about the disappearance of women from the public arena — only nine women in the coalition, zero female directors-general of government ministries,” said Na’amat among a list of reasons for its participation in the protest. “And there are many more examples.”

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