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Between the Flag and the Banner

Women in Israeli Politics

Yael Yishai

Publication Year: 1997

This first comprehensive study of the political life of Israeli women looks at political participation, political identity, women's political organizations, and public policy regarding women. Because Israel has endured perennial armed conflict, its national agenda places overriding importance on national security and family life. At the same time, Israel is a democracy that fosters equality for all its citizens. Thus Israeli women are caught in a dilemma: whether to show allegiance to the national cause or to raise the banner of feminism and focus on women’s rights. This book presents a broad perspective on the political life of Israeli women, both Jewish and non-Jewish. It is the first book to explore Israeli women’s political participation, political identity, and political organizations, as well as public policy toward women. Situating Israel in a comparative theoretical framework, Yael Yishai focuses on the enduring tension between women’s drive for power and their desire to belong and integrate from within.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies

Title Page

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pp. v


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

During a flight to the United States on my way to sabbatical leave, I noticed something strange in my Israeli passport: on page 3, my picture was pasted beside an empty space, under which I found written: "The wife's picture." When I looked closely at the official document, I found, to my amazement, on ...

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1. Between the Flag and the Banner: Dilemmas in the Political Life of Israeli Women

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pp. 1-24

The political lives of women in Israel have been shaped by an acute dilemma, a choice between their desire to foster national progress and their quest for feminist self-fulfillment. Women who wanted to play an equal part in building the new homeland rejected sex as a basis for political mobilization and interest ...

PART I. Women in Political Institutions and Associations

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2. Women in the Elite

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pp. 27-56

Discussion of women in the Israeli elite brings to mind the late prime minister Golda Meir, a woman of worldwide renown. Meir was helped neither by the tutelage of a political father nor by a politician husband, but rose through arduous and long party work. But the woman prime minister was a glaring exception. In Israel, ...

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3. Women's Associations and Movements

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pp. 57-88

Women's associations have been at the forefront of the struggle for women's equality in Israel, invariably confronting the well-known dilemma between national goals and gender objectives. Some women groups have ignored it, arguing that working toward the implementation of collective ends is not incompatible ...

PART II. Ordinary Women in Political Life

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4. Political Participation: Women in the Party-State

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pp. 91-118

Israel has been described as a highly politicized society, a party-democracy in which political parties wield influence on social and political life (Arian 1989). Although the impact of the parties on society has somewhat eroded now compared with the state's formative era, considerations based on party politics still ...

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5. Women's Gender Identity: "Who am I?"

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pp. 119-144

A headline in Naamat's monthly captured the essence of womanhood in Israel: "I Am Not a Feminist, but ... " The article recalled that Israeli women, even the "progressive" ones, often state that although they are not "feminists" they support women's quest for equality. Rejection of feminism is deepened ...

PART III. Women and Public Policy

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6. Labor Policy: The Problem of Economic Equity

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pp. 147-176

Women in Israel enjoy economic equality before the law. The most important paragraph in the Women's Equal Rights Law (1951) provides that "There shall be one law for men and women in all judicial cases, any regulation discriminating against a woman as such will be invalid." Still, economic resources are not equally ...

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7. Family Policy: Patriarchy in the Jewish State

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pp. 177-204

In March 1993 a spokeswoman for Naamat stated, at a widely publicized press conference, that the theme chosen for that year's Women's Status Month, was "Family Values."l The slogan amply illustrated the centrality of family in organized women's activity in the country. "The family means something special to ...

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8. Body Politics: The Right to Life and Its Challengers

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pp. 205-230

In a family-centered society like Israel, the question of the right to life could never have remained a private matter, but was bound to become subject to public regulation. As noted, an overwhelming majority of Israelis, women and men, favor granting women the right to decide whether to carry the fetus to birth or ...

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9. Conclusion: From Integration to Mobilization?

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pp. 231-252

This study has sought to examine the political life of women in Israel, a visionary democracy, where democratic procedures are supplemented (or superseded) by overarching collective national norms. The analysis has delineated the alternative path for women's political affiliation and activity: integration into the ...


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pp. 253-268


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pp. 269-284


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pp. 285-292

E-ISBN-13: 9781438424637
E-ISBN-10: 1438424639
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791431276
Print-ISBN-10: 0791431274

Page Count: 292
Publication Year: 1997

Series Title: SUNY series in Israeli Studies