A political cartoon depicting Tzipi Livni, Stav Shaffir, Merav Michaeli and Shelly Yachimovich sitting around a kitchen table while Yitzhak Herzog washes dishes. “First things first,” Livni says, “we’ll give him the right to remain silent.” Screenshot via Facebook.
In some ways the past few years have been very good to women in Israeli politics. A fact that is reflected in the current election campaign. Many of the parties have women in the top ten spaces on their lists for Knesset. Women are both major players in the political arena as well as an important target for political advertising (see for instance, the Jewish Home’s and Yesh Atid’s ads aimed at women). Even Ultra-Orthodox women, who are perceived to be traditionalists and submissive, have belied that perception, taking their political futures into their own hands by founding their own party, B’Zchutan. It’s a whole new world and it has been for a while.
The reaction of the Israeli media to this new reality however, is not quite so new. It reeks of misogyny at its worst and confusion at its best. A great case study for this is the media reaction to former Justice Minister and co-chair of the Zionist Camp, Tzipi Livni. Last week, the right-wing commentator for Maariv, Nadav Haetzni, wrote, “… is Tzipi Livni, who left her party, the Likud, in 2005 with Ariel Sharon, stealing a third of the seats belonging to Likud voters.” Note, that in his version of events it is Tzipi Livni who is leading Ariel Sharon away from his rightful place with the Likud. Livni is a familiar target in Haetzni’s columns. Though there are other figures that he damns with deception, it is Livni who comes up again and again. More than any man, she is the true threat to the State of Israel. He feels betrayed by her. Never mind that many a man has changed political parties and allegiances. And never mind that Livni has often made the jump along with men. How dare this woman betray her Revisitionist heritage? His hatred of her truly borders on the irrational.
Screenshot vis YouTube
Women like to talk about men. They also like to exercise. And often do these two things at once. At least that’s what I learned from Naftali Bennett’s new campaign video. In it a pair of attractive seemingly secular women appear in five vignettes. In each vignette they are shown conversing about various social issues as they go about their day (3 out of 5 of the scenes involve them working out).
“The security guard in our building told me that they raised the salary for all the security guards by 1,000 shekel”, one woman tells the other as they ride their bikes.
“1,000 shekel? Who did that?” her friend replies.
“Bennett. Not only the security guards, he also raised the salary of the cleaning staff by 1000 shekel.”
For a moment it appears that the women will be seduced by Bennett’s ability to get things done, “To tell you the truth, he really does it…”, they say, but then they ruefully recall that, “but he’s a right-winger.”
Amid all of the speculation about post-election coalition building, let’s not overlook the exciting fact that a record number of women will serve in the 19th Knesset. With yesterday’s vote, the number of seats occupied by female MKs has risen from 22 to 26.
This means that women comprise over 23% of the Knesset. While this statistic does not come close to representing the proportion of women in Israeli society, it is better than the situation in the U.S. Here, a record 98 women were recently elected to Congress, but that represents only 18% of all those serving on Capitol Hill.