Eti Livni, Member of the Knesset, Israel (Shinui Party)

This event was cosponsored with the Initiative for Inclusive Security (formerly Women Waging Peace).

Eti Livni discussed her efforts to empower women within the Israeli body politic. Ms. Livni particularly focused on pro-woman legislative efforts she has worked on in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). Using United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 as an inspiration, she proposed a bill in the Knesset that requires government to give women "fair representation" in decision-making bodies and committees. The bill goes even further than the UN Resolution, however, in requiring that women from all walks of life, not just "wealthy people," be brought to the table, Ms. Livni said. She has begun to compile a large list of "relevant" women in Israel who could be called upon to join such committees under the new legislation.

Women in the Knesset banded together in a "cross-party coalition" to support the bill. Staunch opposition came from two minorities in the Knesset, as Ms. Livni related. First, "ultra-Orthodox" Jews opposed it, believing that the place of women is in the home, not in politics. Second, Arabs (particularly Arab Islamists) opposed the bill, on traditionalist grounds. Weaker opposition also came from liberal, male politicians, including those in her own Shinui party. These groups opposed the bill on the grounds that it constituted affirmative action.

Despite such opposition, the Knesset passed Ms. Livni's bill into law, and she is now pursuing further legislation intended to increase the number of women in the Knesset. Opposition from the ultra-Orthodox and liberals prevents an outright quota from being passed, so Ms. Livni and her political allies are seeking an incentive-based approach: any party whose Knesset representation consists of 30% women would receive doubled cash allowances from the government under the legislation she has put forward—a major increase in funds. The bill has already passed its first reading in the Knesset.

Ms. Livni also briefly discussed the situation in Israel after the Gaza withdrawal. She said the withdrawal was extremely popular in Israel. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas plans to move to disarm Hamas after Palestinian elections in January, she said, but should the peace process fail, Israelis overwhelmingly support further unilateral withdrawals from the occupied territories.

Drafted by Evan Hensleigh