Women’s group says parties are pushing female candidates to ‘the back benches’

Israel Women’s Network notes dearth of women in top spots on slates for March elections, laments ‘significant erosion’ of female representation

The 22nd Knesset is sworn in on October 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
The 22nd Knesset is sworn in on October 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A women’s advocacy group on Thursday criticized the dearth of top female candidates in the upcoming national elections, accusing political factions of relegating them to the back of the bus.

Of the eight parties forecast to enter the Knesset in the March 2 elections, only Labor-Gesher-Meretz has two women among its top five candidates, while four parties have none in those spots, including the two largest — Likud and Blue and White.

The national-religious Yamina alliance has five women in its top 10, making it the only party with equal female representation. However, four of those women are only in the 7-10 slots, and Yamina may not even even pick up that many seats.

“In the 23rd Knesset there will be fewer women, in particular in senior positions. This will be a Knesset that pushes women to the ‘women’s section,’ the back benches,” Michal Gera Margaliot, director of the Israel Women’s Network, said in a statement.

Members of the Blue and White party pose for a photograph at the Knesset after submitting their electoral list to the Central Elections Committee, January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussil/Flash90)

Gera Margaliot said many female candidates were placed in unrealistic or borderline spots, while noting two parties — the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism — are ideologically opposed to including women at all on their electoral slates.

She also said that despite the #MeToo movement and greater focus on gender equality, there was a “significant erosion” of female representation in senior public roles.

“The exclusion of women from public spheres, just because they’re women, is expanding to places where it never was [before],” Gera Margaliot charged.

There were 29 women elected to Knesset in September, matching the all-time record from the elections last April (the 21st Knesset) and in 2015 (the 20th).

Prime Minister Golda Meir during a press conference at the Israeli Embassy in Rome January 15, 1973. (AP Photo/Giuseppe Anastasi)

The total number of women who served throughout the 20th Knesset eventually swelled to 36, after seven female lawmakers entered parliament as replacements during its four-year span.

Israel has had one female prime minister in its history, Golda Meir, who led the country from 1969 to 1974.

Culture Minister Miri Regev of Likud and Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked, two of the most prominent female lawmakers currently in the Knesset, have both said they hope one day to be prime minister.

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