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Can we avoid the next war in Gaza?

Heinrich Boell Foundation’s partner Itach Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice has been working to promote such a vision for the past years.  Adv. Anat Thon Ashkenazi analyses how UNSCR 1325 on Women Peace and Security is relevant to the current situation in Palestine and Israel.

No-mans land Gaza
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No-mans land Gaza

We can only imagine a different prospect of the current state of security in Israel and Gaza these days. A state where members of government Security Cabinet would consider how war impacts civil societies in Israel and in Gaza, and thereby develop an approach for negotiation that does not rely on a zero sum ​​game. We can only imagine how government ministers would give official statements saying that instead of investing in war, investments will be made to promote joint ventures of social welfare, education, environment and many more. As part of this utopian view, gender equality will be a cornerstone, and women of different identities and backgrounds would have a vital role in these meetings.

This image is not an unreachable utopia. In fact, this is the vision that is portrayed by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 from 2000. Under this vision, particularly in armed conflict zones, women of diverse background are being integrated into decision making governmental agencies, women are protected from violence, and decision making processes include consideration of gender analysis. Realizing that these principles can help prevent the next conflict, they can also be instrumental in bringing the current conflict to an end.

Committed to this view, since 2012, Itach-Maaki Women Lawyers for Social Justice, WIPS and Anu came together and created an unusual forum aimed to promote the implementation of the 1325 Resolution in Israel. Comprised of thirty women's organizations and human rights organizations representing a variety of identities, political views, and areas of expertise, the forum decided that mere rhetoric statements and limited participation of women in peace negotiation teams will not make due. We decided that a more substantial change was required; one that will alter Israeli security perception in a way that considers political situation and arrangements for peace not solely from a military perspective, but also from a civil gendered perspective that takes into account the other side of the conflict.

The initiative to promote the implementation of 1325 resolution was inspired by the experience in dozens of countries around the world who promoted national Action Plans to realize the principles of the resolution, including Germany and France, alongside countries such as Bosnia, the Philippines, and Rwanda that recently experienced violent conflicts.

Committed to this framework, the forum of women's organizations and feminist activists engaged in a groundbreaking process that lasted for nearly two years to create a comprehensive Action Plan for the implementation of the 1325 Resolution in Israel. It contained dozens of proposals for actions in a variety of areas including law, education, and media, to achieve five overall objectives:

  1. Equal representation of women from all sectors of society in decision-making bodies and processes at the national and municipal levels, such as peace negotiation teams, UN delegations, security committees etc.
  2. Gender mainstreaming in all decision-making bodies and processes, at both the national and municipal levels.
  3. The protection of women of all age groups and all sectors of society, from all forms of violence in the public and private spheres such as women human rights defenders and rising domestic violence during time of escalated conflict.
  4. The prevention of violent conflicts and confronting racism
  5. Advancement of the Comprehensive Action Plan and implementation of 1325 Resolution in all government ministries and agencies.

The forum embraced a broad definition of the notion of security: "security for the people of Israel is a broad concept which includes: protection from violence in public and private spaces; termination of the ongoing state of warfare; protection and advancement of political, civil, and economic rights; freedom from religious coercion; freedom from oppression born of denial of personal and collective rights; freedom from violence, which results in death and destruction among innocent people; and equal opportunities for women from all parts of society in the economy, education, employment, health, and housing. Moreover, the Action Plan is based on a definition of security which includes a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the establishment of agreed-upon national borders, withdrawal from occupied territories, prevention of future violent conflict, and the establishment of stable and enduring peace."


Launching the Action Plan and advancing governmental adoption

As the Action Plan was not merely declarative, the forum believed that implementation of the Action Plan by the government, would lead to a material change on the ground. On October 31st 2013, the Action Plan was launched in a major conference in Tel Aviv. During this event, we were honored to be greeted by by Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, via a pre-recorded video. Other distingished guests included Minister of Justice Ms. Tsipi Livni, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Mr. Robert Serry, the head of the European Union delegation to Israel Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen, as well as Israeli parliament members from diverse parties such as Zahava Gal-On, Merav Michaeli, Gila Gamliel, and many representatives of academia and civil society organizations. During the conference, the organizations launched the Action Plan and called on the government to adopt it.

Since October 2013, we have been advancing the adoption of the Action Plan by the government. In July 2014, a joint public meeting of the Gender Equality Knesset Committee and the Foreign Affairs and Security Knesset Committee was held. The two Knesset committees called upon the Prime Minister's office to act within two months to promote a governmental administrative decision to establish a team to create an action plan for Israel. While this call serves as a significant step forward, the road to fulfilling the values ​​and principles of the 1325 Resolution is still ahead.


What has been done to implement UNSCR 1325 in Israel in the recent years?

It cannot be said that nothing has been done in Israel to implement the UNSCR 1325 so far. In fact, Israel was the first country to adopt the resolution, by amending the Equality of Women's Rights Law (Amendment No.4), in 2005. The law mandated the inclusion of diverse women in public bodies established by the government on issues of national importance, including peace negotiations.  Although Israeli legislation had already recognized the principle which requires that women be properly represented in various governmental bodies, the new requirement was considered a breakthrough. First, it was the first time that the law recognized the duty to ensure proper representation in every public committee appointed by the government on any subject, including issues concerning foreign policy, security and peace negotiations. Second, the law expressed a revolution in the worldview of the Israeli Parliament thus far – for the first time, there was a legal mandate to appoint women from diverse population groups. This meant that women who would be appointed should come from sectors that had been excluded from decision-making circles. This signified a tremendous advancement of both legislature and women organizations toward the recognition of diverse voices among women in Israeli society that had never been heard before.

Despite the progressive law, its implementation by the government was an entirely different story. Addressing the challenges of implementation, Itach-Maaki Women Lawyers for Social Justice has been acting since 2008, with the support of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, to ensure implementation of the law, submitting appeals to Israeli Supreme Court against governmental agencies who failed to act in accordance with the law. Dramatic breakthrough in this journey was in the appeal against the The Turkel Committee, which the government established to examine the Turkish flotilla event in 2010. Following the legal claim, the Supreme Court ordered the government to integrate women in the committee.

Several months ago, Itach-Maaki together with 13 other women organizations, filed another appeal challenging the government committee established to examine the distribution of state profits from nature reserves. Filed to the Israeli Supreme Court, petitioners focused on the improper representation of women (there were two women out of 12 members overall) and the lack of diversity among women. In response, the government announced that four other women have been appointed to the committee after the claim was filed. While this announcement served as a significant achievement to represent equal numbers, the issue of diversity was unanswered. Accordingly, Itach-Maaki continues its operations to promoting better legal understanding of the representation of women from various population groups.


To read the Action Plan created by the forum of women's organizations and presented to the government please click here:

A Comprehensive Action Plan for the Application of UN Security Council Resoultion 1325