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Inside Israel

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Women's Rights in Israel

March 10th 2012

Modern Women Leaders
Golda Meir

Israel is widely considered among the world's most progressive nations in defending the rights of women. 

Israel's Declaration of Independence - calling for the equal treatment of citizens regardless of race, religion, or gender - stands as a beacon of civility, freedom, and justice in a region where women are denied many basic freedoms.

In fact, Israel was one of the first countries in the world to be led by a female head of state. From 1969 to 1974, Golda Meir served as Israel's Prime Minister, setting the stage for future generations of women to follow in her political footsteps. Today, 24 women serve in the 120-member Knesset, a higher proportion than sit in the U.S. Congress. Three women also are ministers in the Israeli cabinet - Sofa Landver, Orit Noked, and Limor Livnat. Additionally, the leaders of two of Israel's three major political parties - Kadima and Labor - are both women, Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich, respectively.

Livni was first elected to the Israeli Knesset as a member of the rightist Likud party in 1999. When Likud leader Ariel Sharon became prime minister in July 2001, Livni was appointed Minister of Regional Co-operation, and thereafter held various Cabinet positions including Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Minister of Housing and Construction. She received the Abirat Ha-Shilton ("Quality of Governance") award for 2004. in October 2005, she was appointed Minister of Justice after several months acting in that position.

In Sharon's Cabinet, Livni was an avid supporter of the prime minister's disengagement plan, and was generally considered to be among the key dovish or moderate members of the Likud party. She often mediated between various elements inside the party, and made efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including successful efforts to have the pullout from the Gaza Strip ratified by the Knesset. On November 12, 2005, she spoke at the official annual commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination.

Three of the twelve Israeli Supreme Court Justices are women, and the recently resigned President of the Supreme Court was also a woman, Dorit Beinisch. Beinisch was born in Tel Aviv 1942. After completing her army service with the rank of first lieutenant, she completed her law studies at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, earning her Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree in 1966 and her Masters of Laws (LL.M) degree in 1968. Upon conclusion of her studies she began her professional career in Public Service, initially as an advocate in the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office and later in the head office of the Attorney General. From 1976 to 1982, she managed the Department of Petitions to the Supreme Court of the Office of the Attorney General. From 1982 to 1988 she served as Assistant Attorney General and in 1989 she was appointed Attorney General. During this period she served as head of the General Prosecution department and was responsible for representing the State of Israel in the various law courts, as well as providing legal advice to the state authorities. In December 1995 Dorit Beinisch was appointed to the Supreme Court and in September 2006 was elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position she held until February 2012.Indeed, women now comprise a majority of judges throughout Israel.

Mitchell Bard is the author of MYTHS and FACTS and is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library.org from where this is taken from.

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