The left-wing liberal party Meretz elected MK Zehava Gal-On this week as its new leader, following the retirement of former MK Haim Oron. Gal-On, representing the left flank of the party, won against MK Ilan Gilon. She is expected to place greater emphasis on opposition to the occupation. In her victory speech, Gal-On said:
“Under my leadership, Meretz will bring social protest into political power. It will be a true social-democratic party that supports dividing the land (of Israel).”
Meretz has only three seats in the current Knesset, and while polls indicate that the party could double its power in the next elections, there is also a danger that Meretz will fail to pass the two percent threshold and be wiped out completely.
Interestingly enough, the three Jewish center-left parties are now led by women: Tzipi Livni of Kadima, Shelly Yachimovich of Labor and Gal-On of Meretz. Livni is facing a showdown with ex-defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who is considered a favorite in the coming primaries for the party leadership, to be held at the end of March.
As religious circles are engaged in an effort to remove women from the public sphere, it is encouraging to see an entire Knesset bloc led by women. The current Knesset has a record number of 23 women MKs.
Israel has had in the past one woman as prime minister (Golda Meir). All the rest, from David Ben Gurion to Benjamin Netanyahu, were Ashkenazi Jewish men.