Why the peace process needs more women, now

On September 18, the first night of Rosh Hashanah, a consequential event occurred: the world lost a feminist icon in justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As a result, women took to social media in droves to issue a rallying cry: “she would want us to grieve by fighting.” This call to action mobilized gender advocates and led to record-breaking fund-raising efforts.As I recommitted to the fight to uphold Ginsburg’s mission to eradicate gender inequity, I also began contemplating my role as an American Jewish woman, and in that moment and had a realization: I wish that this same sense of urgency extended to promote the role of women within the Diaspora Zionist community and wider pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace.Jewish people have a long, proud tradition of teshuva and correcting inequity. However, the truth is, these efforts have yet to translate into meaningful representation of women in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process or in ongoing Arab-Israeli normalization efforts. Furthermore, there’s mounting evidence suggesting that, without women’s participation, these initiatives are less likely to succeed in the long term. If Jewish women want to uphold Ginsburg’s legacy, we must join our communities in demanding a seat at the negotiating table – and all leadership forums – now. Progress has never been linear, but Jewish thought leaders can start to catalyze women’s political representation through the five below steps:1. Increase awareness among institutionsThe fact that women have been historically excluded from Arab-Israeli conflict negotiations, or that their participation would, in fact, benefit the peace process were not things I learned through much of my Jewish or Israel-centered education. Until our community acknowledges the extent of the problem, we cannot start to fix it. A study from the Council on Foreign Relations highlights the discrepancy: in major peace processes from 1992 and 2018 only 4% of signatories and 13% of negotiators were women; yet, when women participated, resulting agreements were 64% less likely to fail and 35% more likely to last 15 years. If statistics are too esoteric, look no further than the images from the recent Israel-United Arab Emirates and Israel-Bahrain normalization deals. Does this look like an environment that values women’s participation? Or an honest representation of the constituencies within either negotiating society more broadly?2. Embrace diverse leadership stylesTo allow women to envision themselves at the negotiating tables, we have to create a new narrative about leadership styles that celebrates the unique characteristics that women bring to the political stage in order to help young women understand how to activate those traits themselves. We can also elevate the profiles of women who have successfully impacted previous peace talks to learn from their tactics. For instance, those involved in major negotiations believe women at large are able to work effectively across partisan lines. In 2013 and 2014 US-led negotiations, Tzipi Livni reportedly advocated for parties to ignore political distractions and continue to discuss concrete agenda items, even while other members of her negotiating team appeared ready to filibuster talks.3. Avoid politicizing women’s issues
The consequences of America and Israel’s vicious hyper-polarization and partisan vitriol come not only at the expense of the Diaspora community, but also the progress of women’s rights and representation. The equal participation of women in Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab negotiations should not be controversial. It should be a welcome opportunity for liberals and conservatives to coalesce and start to work together again, not only in the service of equity but also progress in problem-solving. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s evolution from “passive participant to activist diplomat,” willing to break with conservatives, to achieve near-success during the 2007 Annapolis Process serves as an example of the benefits of disregarding shortsighted political pressure and prioritizing peace over party.4. Implement achievable objectivesJewish communal coalitions need to translate the abstract support for equal women’s representation into tangible planning with achievable results. We can begin by promoting existing initiatives that deserve our attention and support. The nonprofit Gender Avenger, for example, whose mission is to ensure women are represented in the public dialogue, created a pledge that asks participants to confirm that they will not serve as a panelist at a public conference when there are no women on its panels. Additionally, Israel Policy Forum, a nonprofit policy organization that mobilizes support for the realization of a viable two-state solution that I’m involved with as a lay leader, recently launched its own Women Peace and Security effort for its next-generation leaders, committing to “advancing women’s involvement, expertise, and leadership in Israeli-Palestinian peace building and Jewish communal affairs.”5. Show up
Insist a woman asks the first question at your Q&A, encourage women to join your board and translate your voice into meaningful action: it really is that simple.In his recently published memoir, Friendly Fire, former head of the Shin Bet Ami Ayalon envisioned that it would ultimately be a woman at the helm of the State of Israel who legislates and enacts a two-state solution. Beer in hand, Ayalon writes, she declares that Israeli security and independence is inseparable from “[allowing] the Palestinians to exercise national self-determination.” I love imagining the woman in Ayalon’s dream and hope I get to meet her – and I hope you do too – because until we all attain equality we cannot attain a perfect America or a perfect Israel. In the words of Ginsburg, “when I’m sometimes asked, ‘when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘when there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”The writer is the founding chair of IPF Atid’s Los Angeles chapter, Israel Policy Forum’s young professionals community. She works as a strategic marketing and communications consultant, specializing in ideating and executing entertainment and public affairs initiatives.



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