Special Survey

Women’s Representation in Israeli Politics: Analysis for 2024

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Between 1996 and 2015, there was a real improvement in women's representation in the Knesset. Since 2015, however, it seems this upward trend has stalled and female legislative representation is faltering, especially compared to other democracies.

Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

The issue of women’s representation in the political arena is currently at the heart of the public discourse in many countries around the world. The fundamental axiom at the basis of this discourse is the critical importance of a significant presence of women in political roles. Women’s inclusion in the public arena derives from democratic values such as equality and pluralism; such inclusion helps solidify their status in society and conveys the idea that women are equal citizens. The background of this discussion is the fact that in many countries the percentage of women among elected officials remains low. This gender disparity has led countries and parties to take steps to increase female representation in the political arena. A number of countries adopted gender quotas that have produced a consistent and major increase in the number of women in their legislatures. Recently there has also been an increase in the number of governments with gender parity—an equal number of men and women in ministerial positions.

Even though there are no statutory quotas in Israel, the country saw a real improvement in women’s presence in the Knesset between 1996 and 2015.  Since then, it seems the increase stalled, and female representation in Knesset is faltering, especially compared to other democracies.

Women in the Knesset

Following the last elections (November 2022) 29 women were elected to the Knesset. Since then, the figure slightly increased and today, on the eve of International Women’s Day (March 8, 2024), there are 30 women in the Knesset—exactly a quarter of all members of Knesset. In a broad historical perspective, this is indeed a high level of representation, but it also reflects a recent slowing in the improvement of women presence in the Israeli legislature.

As can be seen in the figure below, the first three Knesset elections produced a Knesset with about 10% women. After that, over the course of four decades until 1999, the number of women in the Knesset was consistently lower, ranging from a low of seven (1988) to a high of 11 (1992). There was a sharp rise in the number of female Knesset members between 1996 and 2015, but since then there has been no significant change. In the last five elections, the number of women elected has ranged between 28 and 30. In the previous Knesset, extensive use of the Norwegian Law (a law enabling government ministers to resign from the Knesset and be replaced by another member of their party) brought the share of women MKs to a high of 35.

Women in the Knesset: The Number of Female MKs

* Except for the last column, the values reflect the number of female MKs at the beginning of each legislative term. Last column – as of 3.3.2024.

The parliamentary party that currently has the highest female representation is Yesh Atid, with 9 women MKs. There are 7 women in The Likud, to which we can also add Ministers Miri Regev and Idit Silman, both of whom resigned from Knesset under the Norwegian Law. In relative terms, the party with the highest proportion of women in Knesset is the Labor Party, in which three of the party's four MKs are women. Three parties are made up solely of male members of Knesset: Shas, United Torah Judaism, and the Noam party. The only party headed by a woman is the Labor Party, whose leader Merav Michaeli has recently announced her intention to resign her leadership position.

Women in Israeli Politics: February 2024

What is the level of female representation in Knesset compared to other countries? A comparison shows that Israel ranks 97th out of 190 countries in such a comparison. If we restrict the comparison to OECD countries, we find that Israel now ranks 31 out of 38 (see table below). Notably, just two years ago Israel ranked 23 out of 38.

The Share of Women MPs in OECD Countries (updated February 2024)

The slowing in the increase of women representation in Knesset since 2015 distances Israel from the rest of the OECD countries, in most of which the increase in female representation continued over in the last decade. In other words, although female representation in Knesset has not weakened significantly - the gap with the OECD average has actually increased. In 2014 Israel was only about 5% behind the OECD average. Today, this gap has increased to 9%.

Share of Women MPs: Israel vs. the OECD

Women in Government

Until 1974, Golda Meir was the only woman to serve in an Israeli Government. She was followed by Shulamit Aloni (1974), Sarah Doron (1983), Shoshana Arbeli (1986), and Ora Namir (1992). Thus, only five women have held a ministerial position until 1996. Since then, another 27 women have been appointed to ministerial positions. Each of the two previous governments recorded a new high in female membership. The 35th Government (the Netanyahu-Gantz Government) formed after the elections in 2020, began its term with a record number of eight women as ministers—double the previous high. Until then, no more than four women had ever served in the Government at the same time. The 36th Government (the Bennett-Lapid Government) broke this mark and included nine women, or one-third of the total ministers. As shown in the table below, the current Government represents a sharp retreat from these peaks. This is less obvious in absolute numbers but stands out in relative terms.

Women in the Last Three Cabinets

When considering female representation in the Government, we should go beyond the dry numbers, since the increase in the female presence at the Government has not been translated into their appointment to the more prestigious ministries. Only two women have ever served as Ministers of Foreign Affairs: Golda Meir (1956–1966) and Tzipi Livni (2006–2009). No woman has ever held the other two most prestigious portfolios—Defense and Finance. Over the last 15 years, not a single woman has served in any of Israel's most senior political positions—Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Finance Minister, Foreign Minister.

Furthermore, even if there has been a rise in the number of women in Israeli governments, the change has been slower than that in many democracies. In some, not only has the number of women increased, but there are also instances of gender parity or even a female majority in the government. As can be seen in the figure below, the current governments of Finland and Belgium have a female majority; those in the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, and Sweden have an equal or almost equal number of men and women. A significant improvement has also been registered in the United States. Only three years ago, women constituted only 13% of Donald Trump’s cabinet. Today, under Joe Biden, the figure has zoomed to 38%, including the first woman vice president and the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Treasury (Janet Yellen).

Cabinet composition by gender

Women “at the Top”

The number of women who have held their country’s most senior political position (prime minister or executive president) has increased significantly over the last two decades. Today, women hold the most senior position in seven of the 38 OECD countries. These include Giorgia Meloni in Italy and Mette Frederiksen in Denmark. As can be seen in the Table, since 2012 more than half of the OECD countries (22 out of 38) have had a woman prime minister or president. This list includes countries where this was the first time that the glass ceiling had been broken (Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Sweden), and others where women had previously reached the top (UK, New Zealand). In 12 of the 38 OECD countries, no woman has yet held the most senior position. These include the United States, but Kamala Harris’s ascension to the vice presidency, the first woman to do so, is an important milestone in this respect.

The Last Time a Woman Held a Senior Position* in the 38 OECD Countries

*Includes Prime Ministers or Presidents for presidential democracies (ceremonial presidents are not included in the list).

Israel was one of the first countries in which a woman held the most senior political position. When Golda Meir was named Prime Minister in 1969, she was only the third woman in the world to have reached that position. However, since her resignation in 1974, all ten Israeli prime ministers have been men.


After many years of an upward trend, women’s presence in the Israeli political arena is now in a shuffling trend, and the rise in their parliamentary representation has been halted. The peak reached in the Bennett-Lapid Government has been followed by a significant decrease in female membership in the current Government. In other respects as well, progress on this front has been suspended. For example, today only one party is headed by a woman—Merav Michaeli of Labor. An additional example – only in one of the 15 standing Knesset Committees is headed by a woman: Pnina Tameno, the Chair for the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality.  And as long as the ultra-Orthodox parties persist in their refusal to include women on their slates, there is little chance of reaching gender parity in the Knesset. The road to fair and appropriate representation that reflects women’s share in the population remains long.

Nor should we forget that political representation is only one aspect of gender equality. Another important aspect relates to women’s economic status. Here the picture in Israel is even less encouraging: Alongside women’s high rate of participation in the labor force (16th in the world, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2023), there are very large wage disparities between Israeli women and men who hold similar positions (81st place) and an abysmal record in senior managerial positions (96th place).

The Global Gender Gap Report currently places Israel in 83rd place overall. A key consideration responsible for this low position is the suppression of female representation in the political arena—a trend that should cause us great concern. With that, we can perhaps draw some encouragement from the continued trend of improvement in the municipal arena. While we do not yet have the complete results from last week’s local elections, we can estimate that the number of women elected to local councils has significantly increased. At the same time, only marginal improvement is expected in the number of women elected to mayorships positions.