Last updated: 7 December, 2014

Israeli ultra-orthodox women launch election campaign

Ultra-orthodox Jewish women in Israel have begun an unprecedented campaign to have women candidates on the lists of religious parties for next March's early general election, media reported on Sunday.

“We want ultra-orthodox women — five percent of the population — to have a say in the Knesset and demand that the heads of the ultra-orthodox parties choose at least one candidate of their choice,” activist Esty Reider-Indorsky, a driving force behind the move, told public radio.

However, the broadcaster reported that the leaders of the parties in question (Shas, with 11 of 120 seats in parliament) and the Unified Torah list (seven seats) have no intention of agreeing to the demand.

In a manifesto published on social networks online and supported by personalities including secular Israelis, the ultra-orthodox women say they are prepared to go as far as an election boycott.

“And we (women) represent half of the electorate,” Reider-Indorsky told the station.

Ultra-orthodox Jewish women, recognisable by their modest clothing and hair styled under a scarf or wig, are already present in Israeli politics.

Although they have not been able to be candidates for ultra-orthodox parties, some have been elected standing for other parties and others work as assistants to members of parliament.

In the last general election in January 2013, the ultra-orthodox parties — long-time kingmakers in Israeli coalition politics — found themselves excluded from power for the first time in 30 years.

The general election will be held on March 17, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a snap vote following the collapse of his right-leaning coalition.