Israel’s defense establishment: overmanned? (JERUSALEM POST) By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN / THE MEDIA LINE 04/11/12)
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Israel is one of just a few countries that subjects its women to
mandatory draft and has a female major-general sitting on the army’s
general staff. Until recently, the chief justice of the Supreme Court
and the head of the parliamentary opposition were both women.
On the surface, it would seem that women have a respectable role in
Israeli establishment. But appearances can be misleading.
“Israel has the lowest representation of women out of any Western
country in strategic leadership positions in the field of security
and conflict resolution,” said Julia Chazkel, co-founder of the
Israeli branch of Women in International Security (WIIS).
A dozen years ago, the United Nations Security Council passed
Resolution 1325 calling on member states to increase the
representation of women “at all decision-making levels in national,
regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the
prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.”
It also urged states to include women as special envoys, participants
in peace negotiations and in military peace keeping operations.
Israel adopted this into law over a decade ago, but has yet to
fulfill any of the requirements under the resolution, Chazkel told
The Media Line.
“There are very few women who are in the strategic positions that
they said they were going to. There is yet to be a woman who is on
the front lines of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. This is
a promise that they have been making for over 10 years that hasn’t
been fulfilled,” said Chazkel.
Chazkel founded the Israeli chapter of WIIS in September 2010 with
Lea Landman with the declared aim of boosting the influence of women
in foreign and defense affairs in Israel and the Middle East. They
were teaming up with their mother organization sitting in Washington
DC, which was established in 1987 and today boasts some 5,000 members
in nearly 50 countries.
Chazkel comes from a background in counter-terrorism analysis and
international law. Landman, a former Israel Air Force intelligence
officer, is a research fellow on national security and economic
affairs at the Herzilya Interdisciplinary Center (IDC).
To its credit, Israel is one of a handful of countries where women
have served as prime minister. Golda Meir did so during the
tumultuous 1973 Yom Kippur War. Until last month, the head of,
Kadima, the largest political party in Israel, was Tzipi Livni, a
former Mossad agent and foreign minister under the governments of
Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. Livni lost out in a leadership contest
in March to her rival, former IDF chief of staff and defense
minister Shaul Mofaz.
But Meir and Livni are the exception; in Israel´s 64-year history,
only 10 women have served as ministers, (including Meir and Livni)
and there are currently three female minister out of Binyamin
Netanyahu’s unprecedentedly large 29-member cabinet. These include
Minister of Agriculture Orit Noked, Minister of Immigration
Absorption Sofa Landver and Minister of Sport and Culture Limor
Ironically, one of the major leaders in last summer’s social protests
by huge swaths of Israel’s middle class was a Daphni Leef, a 25-year-
Based at IDC, the WIIS helps students and young professionals prepare
their resumes and hone their interviewing skills. They also hold
monthly lectures on security, women’s rights and conflict resolution.
Chazkel said the group has three main target groups: students, mid-
level career women and women in senior positions. Students are given
mentors and help in career opportunities and linked in to entry-level
job opportunities in the security sector.
With women at mid-level careers, Chazkel said they help them earn
promotions through training in various fields.
“These training programs fit perfectly in institutional barriers in
the places that they already work to help them achieve higher and
reach leadership positions in the security sector,” she said.
“And then we work with networking opportunities for women at the
highest levels to get them to know each other and to really build an
All Girls Club the and counter the All Boys Club,” Chazkel said.
“We are doing major research to find out what are the institutional
barriers. I think a lot of them have to do with sexual harassment,
feelings of a lack of role models – which is why we think the
mentoring opportunities are the most important thing, so that women
that are coming into the field know that there is someone there to
help them,” she said.
Politics and the defense establishment are male-dominated. Today in
Israel, there are over 50 registered women´s organizations, the
majority of which are devoted to providing solutions to major issues
faced by women, such as preschool daycare, assistance to single
mothers, and legal counseling. Others are focused on issues such as
peace, security, and social welfare, such as The Women in Black,
Rachelim Women and Four Mothers.
Interestingly enough, public opinion surveys usually show no
differences between the views of Israeli men and women on issues
related to peace making.
“Women don´t necessarily think differently than men when it comes to
peace negotiations and security, but the perception of women is that
we do,” said Chazkel.
According to a dissertation written by Fania Oz-Salzberger, who now
teaches at the University of Haifa, Palestinians were more willing to
accept women on their peace negotiating teams than Israelis.
“This isn’t necessarily because women are more inclined to peace, but
rather because the perception of us is that we are,” Chazkel
said. “So I personally believe, and believe strongly, that these are
reasons that we need to put women into strategic positions. Because
we have a unique thing that we bring to the table and it´s important
to bring women into strategic positions.”
Chazkel believes that Israel is moving forward, albeit slowly.
“If we want to continue progressing as a Western society that’s
moving toward democratic, and equal opportunities, we need to make
sure we represent ourselves at the level the European´s are and the
level that the Americans are. In order to do that, we need to make
sure there are more women in leadership positions - because that´s
the future,” Chazkel said. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/11/12)
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