The WWP Knesset Committees team / Michal Paneth Peleg

Women Wage Peace call elected legislators to choose peace as a strategic choice, and to include women in decision-making positions.

For this purpose, we take action within the Knesset, repeatedly reminding its members that conflicts can and should be resolved through political agreements. WWP activity in the Knesset is being carried out in several channels: The Women’s Knesset every Monday at the Plenum, “Samot Lev” (“Paying Attention”), and our team of the Knesset committees – all under the umbrella of the Government Relations team.

The Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) is the venue of legislation, of professional discussions on public issues and supervision of government work. This is where we can meet the 120 legislators and government top officials, as well as representatives of companies, organizations and civil activists from all walks of the public arena. In this space we present our movement and its goals, and encourage Knesset members and opinion leaders to support and assist us in the various forums.

Most of the Knesset’s work is carried out within its committees (12 permanent committees and a similar number of special committees).  Each week dozens of meetings are held, sometimes four concurrently, where Knesset members who want to speak in more than one of them, enter and leave the committee rooms.

In order to hear and be heard on issues of security and Peace, we attend meetings of various committees: the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Education Committee, the Constitution Committee, the House Committee, the Labor and Social Affairs Committee and the Transparency Committee. WWP’s aspiration to reach out to diverse population groups sends us also to discussions on poverty and discrimination.

Our committees’ team consists of more than thirty women, most of us residents of Jerusalem and its vicinity, who have learnt the Knesset’s work procedures and have been trained in public speaking. Each of us tries to attend at least one committee every week, so usually one to five WWP representatives attend each relevant meeting.

Every week, we examine next week’s committees discussion schedule, choose themes that relate to the movement’s targets, ask for entry permits and enter the committee meetings wearing our prominent outfit – a white shirt decorated with a turquoise scarf.  In quite a few discussions we receive permission to speak, and one of us addresses the chairperson and the other speakers’ words, presenting the movement’s standpoint on the discussed issue.

Examples:

At the Education Committee, in a stormy debate on the bill for the prevention of activities of “organizations working against educational goals and against the IDF” in schools , Ilana spoke: Movements such as Breaking the Silence are entering the public space to fill a vacuum created by a lack of information on varied standpoints. Thus, it is important to introduce classes on Peace as a default component in schools’ curriculum. Such classes should address conflict resolution and conflict management, not as a slogan but as a core lesson. I feel the Ministry of Education tries to control information provided to schools”.

In a previous discussion on the same subject, Mali spoke: “this bill will apply only to the state schools and not to the orthodox and Haredi schools. The bidders claim that their law’s aim is protecting the IDF, but the IDF has not asked for it and does not need it. We think that the proposed bill should apply to all schools including the religious and Haredi ones. All of them should teach respect of the IDF, not only the secular state schools where kids learn to respect the army, join it and defend their country.”

A couple of months ago the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussed a proposed amendment to the Government Basic Law regarding responsibility for embarking on a large-scale military operation (in a previous wording – “Declaration of War”). According to the existing law, the entire government is responsible for the IDF, but due to its large size, it delegates the authority to the Ministerial Committee of Foreign Affairs and Security (The Cabinet). When I was given permission to speak, I read aloud the relevant passage from the State Comptroller’s report on the Tzuk Eitan war (Operation Protective Edge), indicating that political options were not examined before the initiation of the war. I proposed adding to the bill a demand to review all possible political and diplomatic actions that might prevent the war. I added that history knows too many unnecessary and failed wars both in Israel and elsewhere in the world, and that most of these wars were not preceded by vigorous political action. I ended with WWP aspiration for a political agreement with the Palestinians that might make the next wars unnecessary.

In these meetings, whether we speak or not, we are very conspicuous due to our white and turquoise attire, and sometimes manage to exchange words with Knesset members and representatives from various civil and academic sectors, who come there to speak out their issues. We present our movement to them and invite them to join activities such as the Mothers’ Tent which was built and operated opposite the Knesset building throughout the Knesset 2018 summer session.

The summaries and insights from the discussions are distributed to the government relations team, whose coordinators we meet with from time to time for consultation and updates.

If you are interested in political processes, want to learn about the work of the Knesset and can commit to a few hours a month in Jerusalem, you are invited to join us. For details: Nehama Harriet Hillman, amira@13.net.

Translated by the author