Justice Yaakov Turkel
Justice Yaakov Turkel Yoni Kempinski

An attempt by women's groups to add at least one woman to the Turkel Committee investigating the Gaza flotilla clash has failed. Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman informed the government Sunday that his office approached five women and invited them to join the committee, as it was instructed to do by the High Court. However, all five turned down the invitations.

In a ruling on August 12, the High Court accepted a motion by three women's groups that demanded the addition of a woman to the Turkel Committee. The motion cited a law passed in 2005 that calls for women “from different sectors of society” to be appointed to committees that deal with diplomatic and security issues.

The court ruled that despite the fact that the Turkel Committee has begun hearing testimony, a woman must be added to it, even at the expense of one of the existing members. Only if five women were approached and all five turned down the offer, the State will have fulfilled its obligation according to law, it ruled. 

Ne'eman said that his office had approached Judge (retired) Hadassah Ben-Ito, Prof. Nili Cohen of Tel Aviv University, Prof. Michal Pomerantz of Hebrew University, District Court Judge Miriam Rubinstein, and Judge (ret.) Yehudit Tzur. 

Even before the matter reached the court, the Justice Ministry had approached several women, including Prof. Ruth Lapidot and Prof. Yafa Zilbershatz, who turned down the invitations for different reasons.

The motion was filed by three women's organizations, two of which are backed by the New Israel Fund, which is seen by many Israelis as hostile to the state of Israel. The main petitioner is a binational group of women lawyers named Itach-Maaki, which has announced it intends to present the Turkel committee with a legal opinion that will include “the voices of women who participated in the flotilla.”  

Another NIF group, Haifa-based Isha L'Isha, had lobbied for passage of the 2005 law calling for women “from different sectors of society” to be appointed to diplomatic and security committees. Leftist feminists hoped that the law would be a vehicle for forcing the state to place Arab women inside committees on key national issues.