Speaking during Tuesday`s special plenary session marking International Women`s Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) said women in Israel are ”leaders in science, law, politics, technology, diplomacy and in all other aspects of life in this country. They head government offices, banks, the judicial system and more. They also represent Israel as ambassadors around the world.”

Netanyahu lauded Israeli women for the manner in which they combine work, family and raising children. ”I see this in my wife Sara, and I know it exists in many Israeli homes. It is not an easy burden, and as men we must acknowledge the fact that we must increase our partnership in this burden,” he told the plenum, adding ”we will continue to fight sexual harassment, violence and discrimination with all our power, [and we will also fight] to narrow the wage gaps in the economy, particularly in public service.”

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) said he was proud that a third of the members of the parliamentary group he heads are women, more than in any other faction. ”You are inspirational leaders, each and every one of you, and along with the other 23 women MKs, you create a revolution every day,” he told the female members of the Zionist Camp.

PM Netanyahu on International Women`s Day: We`ll continue fighting sexual harassment, violence and discrimination with full force

PM Netanyahu (Photo: Itzik Harari)

”True, there are more women serving in this Knesset than in any previous Knesset, but it`s still not enough,” Herzog stated. ”In order to fight racism and inequality, we must see more women leaders. It cannot be that in Israel`s government`s there are only two or three women ministers on average, and it cannot be that we can count the number of female mayors on one hand.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein (Likud) opened the debate by saying that the differences between the genders ”cannot serve as an excuse for discriminating against women when it comes to salaries, status or positions.”

MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), who heads the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, said International Women`s Day is a day of celebration ”because of our achievements in the persistent fight for women`s rights and for a [a perfected society] with social justice. And it is a day of struggle because we have yet to reach the point where we need to be. Women still earn 70% of what men in the same position earn. This Knesset has the largest representation of women, but we still comprise only a quarter of this House. There are still women who have the right to vote but not the right to get elected. Everyone wants our votes, but not everyone wants to see us in decision-making positions.”

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said that, for her, International Women`s Day is a day of ”personal and public soul searching over what we have achieved and what we have not achieved.” She said ”much progress has been made, certainly with regards to the sexual harassment area, if we take into consideration that in the 1990s there was no definition for sexual harassment. However, women are still harmed on a daily basis, and there are still men who permit themselves to hurt women. We must carry on the Sisyphean struggle for budgets, supervision and integrating women in committees and public positions.”

MK Revital Swid (Zionist Camp) told the plenum ”I woke up this morning with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was in a festive mood ahead of this day, which is celebrated the world over, but on the other hand, I asked myself why do we even have to mark this day? But then I told myself that there is no choice as long as we are in an age when women are discriminated against.”