Women in governments of Israel

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Since the founding of the State of Israel, relatively few women have served in the Israeli government, and fewer still have served in the leading ministerial offices. While Israel is one of a small number of countries where a woman—Golda Meir—has served as Prime Minister, it is behind most Western countries in the representation of women in both the parliament and government.

As of 2013, women comprise 23% of Israel's 120-member Knesset.[citation needed] For comparison (as of 2004), the female ratio in the Arab world is 6.4%, in European Union average is 17.6% and in Scandinavia 40% "and rising".[1] In the United States of America, women comprise only 19.3% of the House of Representatives. Female representation varies significantly by demographics: most female politicians have represented secular parties, while very few have come from Arab or religious Jewish parties.[2][3]

Women in the leading jobs in the government[edit]

Portfolio Name Dates in office
Prime Minister Golda Meir 1969–1974
Vice Prime Minister Tzipi Livni 2006-2009
Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni 1993–1996
Limor Livnat 1996–1999
Dalia Itzik 2005
Education Minister Shulamit Aloni 1992–1993
Limor Livnat 2001–2006
Yuli Tamir since 2006
Foreign Minister Golda Meir 1956–1966
Tzipi Livni 2006–2009
Health Minister Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino 1986–1988
Internal Affairs Minister Golda Meir 1970
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni 2004–2006
Labour Minister Golda Meir 1949–1956

Golda Meir is the only woman to serve as the Prime Minister of Israel. She was chosen for the job just before the 1969 elections following the death of Levi Eshkol, and ended her job in 1974. She and Tzipi Livni are the only women who served as Foreign Affairs Ministers, Meir having served in the job for 10 years—from 1956 to 1966. Livni is the only woman to serve in the second most important job in the Israeli government, Vice Prime Minister.

Once Golda Meir resigned in 1974, it was another 12 years until another woman was appointed as a minister with a portfolio, when Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino was appointed Health Minister, and 18 years until a woman was appointed to any other portfolio, Education Minister.

After Golda Meir, the leading jobs which women held are as follows: Education Minister for a total of 7 years (5 of them by Limor Livnat, the rest of the time by Shulamit Aloni and Yuli Tamir), and Minister of Communications, also for a total of 7 years (6 years by Shulamit Aloni and Limor Livnat, and 1 year by Dalia Itzik). Tzipi Livni was acting Minister of Justice for a month, and then Minister of Justice for almost a year and a half.

Although a few women did succeed in reaching the leading posts in the Israelli government, a number of them hadn't ever been held by women, such as Defense Minister, Internal Security Minister, Finance Minister.

Historical overview[edit]

Until the 1970s[edit]

Golda Meir, at a meeting in the White House, 1973

From the first Israelli government until the 12th, Golda Meir was the only woman in the Israelli government (though not the parliament). Golda Meir, who started out as a secretary of the Women's Labour Council of Histadrut, and later became the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel's political department, and then an ambassador to the Soviet Union, came back to Israel in 1949 after she was elected to the Knesset, and served as the Israeli Minister of Labor. She held this job for 7 years under a number of Prime Ministers, until in 1956 she became Foreign Minister, a job she held for 10 years until 1966.

After 3 years, in which she wasn't a member of the Israeli government, she was chosen as the head the Alignment party and as Prime Minister, and she was voted as Prime Minister again in the 1969 elections, when the party got the highest number of seats in the Knesset. Despite being a woman, she wasn't known as a Feminist, and she didn't appoint any other women to positions in the government.

During Golda Meir's time, the number of woman members of Knesset was around 10–14 on average (out of 120), mostly from Mapai and its successor parties. In the elections during which Golda Meir was to become prime minister, only 8 women got into the Knesset.

The 1970s[edit]

After the 1973 elections, Golda Meir resigned from her position as prime minister as the result of protests after the Yom Kippur War, and Yitzhak Rabin was chosen to succeed her. In 1974, he appointed Shulamit Aloni as a minister without portfolio. She held this position for 5 months, until she resigned in protest over the appointment of Yitzhak Rafael as the Religious Services Minister, despite the fact that he was suspected of having accepted bribes.

After the 1970s[edit]

In 2015, the first Israeli political party dedicated to ultra-Orthodox women was unveiled, called "B’Zhutan: Haredi Women Making Change."[4]


  1. ^ Women In Israel Jewish Virtual Library
  2. ^ Women in Public Life Jewish Virtual Library
  3. ^ Current Female Knesset Members Knesset website
  4. ^ "Israel's first ever ultra-Orthodox women's party makes bold debut". Haaretz.com. 20 January 2015.