In January 2012, 60 women, feminist activists, and representatives of women’s organizations gathered at the Migdal Shalom Conference Hall in Tel Aviv at a special event to decide on the promotion of a national action plan in Israel, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.1 At the meeting, a consensus emerged that the principles of 1325 — promoting equal representation for women in decision-making bodies, protecting women against all types of violence, and preventing violence — require a national strategic plan to break them down into tools, precise action, and performance measurements.
During the meeting, one organization representative stated that such a plan must first and foremost emphasize resistance to the occupation of the Palestinian Territory or it would not be a proper application of the principles of 1325, the fruit of many worldwide activists’ labor to promote peace. Following this, a member of another organization excitedly stated that she does not understand what the occupation has to do with implementing the principles of the resolution as, according to her, this concerns representation and protection of women, “not politics.”
As the resolution’s biggest strength and biggest weakness is the flexibility it affords each country to interpret it in the most appropriate way, we embarked on a journey toward designing a comprehensive action plan for implementing the resolution in Israel, full of enthusiasm and faith that 1325 might lead to a change, as had happened in dozens of countries that implemented the resolution through National Action Plans (NAP), as part of their official policy.
Why Form a Comprehensive Action Plan to Implement 1325 In Israel?
The choice of an NAP as a strategic measure reflects the fact that 1325 links the demand for equal representation and the duty to protect women from violence and integrate a gender perspective in the context of a violent conflict.
The decision to promote an action plan was a strategic change from the way 1325 had been implemented in Israel up to that time. Until this decision was made, most of efforts to promote the resolution’s implementation in Israel, especially in the legal domain, revolved around the implementation of Section 6C1 of the Women’s Equal Rights Law.2 This section stipulates that women from diverse groups must be adequately represented in public committees and in government-appointed national policymaking teams.3 This groundbreaking section defined the duty to ensure proper representation of women as a requirement that a variety of female identities be represented for the first time. It was also the first to stipulate that the obligation of proper representation applies to all fields, including peace accords negotiation teams. Thus, Israel became the first country in the world to apply an aspect of 1325 in domestic legislation.
In the first years following its enactment, the section was not implemented. Owing to the new section’s potential to promote the representation of women from diverse groups of the population and its integration into all principles of 1325 that link social and economic justice and lack of security for women, Itach-Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice decided to take action to promote its implementation. In this regard, petitions have been made to the High Court of Justice4 against committees that have not complied with this section of the law. These petitions have led the High Court of Justice to legally recognize that government ministries have an active duty to take every measure to implement the law, and ultimately, the representation of women in these entities increased dramatically. This proved that enacting this section and the efforts to enforce it are an effective resource for higher representation.
Precisely in light of these efforts’ success, however, it became clear that the time had come to take the next step and adopt a broader policy tool. The major paradigm shift on the need to make a strategic change to implementation of 1325 in Israel took place following one of the petitions we made. The petition in question was against the Trachtenberg Committee assembled to deal with the demands raised in the 2011 summer protests and whose composition failed to meet the stipulated obligation according to the section.5 Following the petition to the High Court of Justice, an Arab woman was appointed to a government examination committee for the first time. This success led us to believe that the time had come for a large-scale strategic process involving more than responding and deciding which population needs representation in each specific case, as the legal tool requires us to do, but rather implementing a multidisciplinary designed policy that includes broad populations and diverse tools at the same time.
For the First Time, Civil Society Drafts an Action Plan to Promote 1325
In many countries, civil society participated in the government drafting process or encouraged the government to draft the policy. Our decision to draft a Civil Society Action Plan set a global precedent for civil society organizations. There were multiple reasons for our choice not to merely demand that the government draft an NAP but to draft a plan ourselves: The first was our desire to make sure that the action plan would indeed be a meaningful, large-scale strategic plan and not merely a tool for the state to promote its public relations in the international domain, as had been done in some countries. The second substantive reason was the desire to foster dialogue among experts and diverse identities among women’s organizations regarding the most appropriate, suitable manner for promoting representation and protection in the context of the conflict. Third was our desire to legitimize demands from the government to draft an action plan, including its content, among the different, diverse groups of the population.
Indeed, the myriad positions, identities, and perspectives of the hundreds of women who participated in drafting the action plan were one of the most fascinating and crucial factors of this process. One of the main aspects that allowed multiple organizations to support the action plan, on top of the commitment to the principles of 1325, was the agreement we had reached early on in the process of drafting the action plan to base it on a redefinition of security. This is the definition we developed:
According to this proposed basic redefinition, 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.6
The broader definition of the term “security” made it possible to include many voices among the women’s organizations, and furthermore, it led the plan’s key message, which was that any change in the concept of women’s representation and protection requires a broad concept of security and that the concept of security that emphasizes national security must shift to one that emphasizes human security, comprises human rights, and focuses on the factors that establish security for human beings.
Despite the broad support for this definition and for the plan we designed, however, some voices opposed the definition of security and the plan altogether. On the one hand, some voices opposed a broad definition of security out of concern that an overly broad definition would make it meaningless. The argument was that we might trap ourselves in an essentialist view according to which women, when participating in security decision-making, focus on women and children and on socioeconomics, thus reinforcing the stereotype that women have nothing of substance to contribute to security in the classical sense. From another direction, representatives of Palestinian feminist organizations and activists protested that the demand to end the occupation of Palestine was not adequately emphasized. This was one of the factors that accelerated the establishment of the Alternative Coalition for the Promotion of Resolution 1325, within which member organizations chose to make the demand to end the occupation a major demand in implementing 1325 in Israel.
Nevertheless, with broad support and critical voices as well, after nearly two years of the first conference to design the Comprehensive Action Plan and following thousands of debates, conferences, and disputes, the action plan was launched in October 2013, and it consists of broad recommendations for implementing 1325.
Government Resolution to Draft a NAP and Other Measures Followed
A year after it was launched and following an advocacy campaign and media campaigns, in December 2014, the government decided to establish an interministerial committee headed by the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women to design an NAP based on the principles of 1325 and inspired by the comprehensive action plan design by Israeli women’s associations.7 This decision was a huge accomplishment for the women’s organizations that worked to promote it. The government decision fully embraced all principles of 1325 as the basis for the government’s work, and it even committed to consulting with women’s organizations when designing the plan.
We had hoped that this was an important declaratory operative measure for the government to hold itself accountable regarding all principles of the resolution. Indeed, early on, an effort was made to implement the resolution and work toward its integration. Ultimately, however, no government action plan has been drafted, and the recommendations for implementing it have not yet been submitted to the government, despite the long time that has passed since then. While many actions have been taken to accept some of the recommendations in the comprehensive action plan, the holistic view that assumes comprehensive and interrelated strategic goals to promote
representation, protection, and the integration of a gender perspective has not yet been accepted — certainly not in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As these processes took place within the government domain, following Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, the civil movement Women Wage Peace was formed. This ever-growing movement is one of the largest grassroots movements among the peace organizations, and it operates in many spheres of activity, aiming to “resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a respectful, nonviolent, diplomatic agreement that both parties accept, with participation of women from a variety of populations in Israel, in accordance with UN Resolution 1325.”8
Tens of thousands of women and men participate in this movement, are committed to these messages, and can be seen as an indicator of the successful implementation of 1325 in Israel. The movement chose to emphasize the resolution and view it as public, political leverage, which clearly illustrates how important translating international policy can be, domestically, when the translation and implementation are suitable for domestic values and needs.9
While promoting 1325 through the action plan, the efforts to translate the broad definition of security into substantial policy continued by illustrating the profound link between a narrow concept of national security that does not emphasize women’s interests and direct harm to women. In this way, we took action to reduce the number of weapons in the public sphere, as part of the concept of localizing 1325 according to the reality of life in Israel and the understanding that handing out weapons to increase security in the public sphere directly harms women in the private sphere.10
Nowadays, 20 years after the Resolution was passed, the effort continues to advocate for accountability and work toward designing and implementing a Comprehensive Action Plan that will create the necessary transformational change regarding each principle of 1325 on the part of the Israeli government. While efforts have been made to promote representation and protection against all types of violence, these issues have not yet been brought together as required in a Comprehensive Action Plan, and one hopes that the recent renewed commitment of the minister of social equality to promoting an NAP according to the government decision will indeed be fulfilled.
At the same time, the decision must be used as leverage for women’s organizations and peace organizations to form feminist points of view to promote peace that do not settle only for the creation of a platform for peace negotiations, which is important in itself, but rather suggest how this peace might look, with close cooperation between Jewish and Palestinian women. Inspired by 1325 and following many worldwide successes, we can dream of how sustainable peace that expresses the needs of women, men, and children on the Israeli and the Palestinian sides of the border might look, to best serve both peoples. This would lead to the optimal implementation of 1325 and prove what we already know: Jewish and Palestinian women can promote equal representation and protection of women, end the occupation, and promote a just, sustainable peace between the two peoples.
The author would like to thank and express her appreciation for Adv. Netta Lovey, who has been leading the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Israel in Itach-Maaki since
2015, and to Romy Shapira, deputy director and program coordinator of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, who has been a strategic partner in the journey toward implementing
UNSCR 1325 in Israel.
1 The organizations that initiated the project of creating the Comprehensive Action Plan: Itach Maaki Women Lawyers for Social Justice, WIPS – Center for the Advancement of Women In the Public Sphere at Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Agenda-Hashderah-Uru. Representative of the Organizations in the steering Committee: Adv. Keren Shemesh-Perlmutter, Prof. Naomi Chazan, Prof. Hanna Herzog, Hadass Ben-Eliyahu, Ronna Brayer-Garb, Anat Saragusti, Vered Cohen- Barzilay. Project Facilitators: Noor Falah and Dr. Yofi Tirosh. A list of the organizations who participated in this project is listed on page 56 of the Comprehensive Action Plan: http://www.itach.org.il/wp-content/uploads/tochnit-peula-en.pdf.
2 Equality of Women’s Rights Law 5765. The Amendment to the law was made in 2005 by MK Eti Livni and MK Yuli Tamir with the support of women’s NGOs coalition led by Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center.
3 For more information on the implementation of the section of the law in Israel, see:Yofi Tirosh & Anat Thon-Ashkenazy, Representation of Women and Diversity in Policymaking Bodies: Following Amendment 4 to the Equal Rights for Women Law and UNSCR 1325, Mishpat Umimshal, Vol 15, September 2013.
4 HCJ 3974/08 Itach-Ma’aki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice et. al v The Israeli Government, June 2, 2008; HCJ 2475/09 Itach-Ma’aki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice et. al v Minister of Interior, January 21, 2010; HCJ 5660/10 Itach-Ma’aki Women Lawyers for Social Justice et. al v Prime Minister, August 22, 2010.
5 HCJ 5980/11 Itach-Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice, et. al v. Prime Minister, August 28, 2011.
6 Supra note 2, p. 6.
7 Government Decision No. 2331 https://www.gov.il/he/departments/policies/2014_des2331. A short video on the formulation The Civil Society Comprehensive Plan of Action among women’s organizations: https://youtu.be/hwsk3-ME5L0.
8 “Women Wage Peace” website: https://www.womenwagepeace.org.il/about/
9 From 2016-2018, a dramatic process was set in motion to introduce and implement Resolution 1325 among diverse and wide-ranging groups within Israeli society. In cooperation with Women Wage Peace and Adam Institute, 500 women were trained on the issues raised in Resolution 1325, activism, and social change, so that they could work creatively to advance these issues in various circles.
10 HJC 8451/18 The Gun on The Kitchen Table – Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center, et, al v. Minister of Interior.