Shalom and hello from Israel. As Israel Policy Forum’s newest policy expert on staff, I am happy to introduce myself to you and IPF Atid young professionals across North America. A longtime friend of the organization, I joined Israel Policy Forum in late 2019 as an Israel-based policy analyst (I also maintain my work with the RAND Corporation, based in Los Angeles, and have a visiting fellow position with the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv). It was nice to meet so many of you in February as part of the roll-out tour for the research study I co-authored, “In Search of a Viable Option”, alongside my IPF colleague Evan Gottesman.

With so much happening in the past few weeks in Israel and around the world, I’d like to share a few key observations about politics, regional affairs, and what it means for the work of groups like Israel Policy Forum.

After a long month – and year – we are finally looking at a clear coalition in the form of a so-called “unity government,” created with the stated purpose of getting Israel past the present coronavirus crisis. There were many concessions made, mainly on the part of the Blue and White party, and I encourage you to read the latest from my colleague Michael Koplow for a more complete analysis.  Despite the noteworthy relief of soon having a functioning government, we are confronted with a ticking clock toward an impending threat of annexation of West Bank territory. This comes after strong lobbying by nationalist parties, who have not only successfully propelled this dangerous idea into the Israeli mainstream, but have numerous legislative “wins” to point to in recent years that make a future two-state solution seem even more distant (“legislative” annexation through retroactive legalization of settlement outposts, weakening of the Supreme Court, others).

While we at IPF have been drawing attention to creeping annexation for years, the potential for a swift and legislated unilateral annexation this July is cause for true alarm among supporters of the two-state solution, Israeli democracy, and defenders of Zionism globally. Are the various  repercussions of such a groundbreaking strategic move by Israel truly understood by all of its decision-makers? By the Israeli public? Are the questions even being raised about the ramifications for our country’s security, economy, and the millions of people who call it home?

Amidst all of this, the incoming new government notably falls short of expectations for the inclusion of women in the Knesset, both as party leaders and in the number of female MKs. The Coronavirus strategy committee, for example, contains only a small handful of women out of its 31 members, with most serving as junior research assistants. And as informal creeping annexation of the West Bank potentially soon transitions to a formal Knesset process on July 1,  women leaders – whose inclusion in conflict resolution is well researched and understood to enhance the likelihood for a durable peace – are all but absent from decision-making.

To proactively build against these troubling realities, I sit on the board of Forum Devorah, an organization that enhances the inclusion of women in national security decision-making processes. For example, our roster of experts helps us showcase and promote women figures in panels, conferences, and media interviews. Last fall, I was particularly proud to represent my work with Forum Devorah, IPF, and the wider values of peace, security, and inclusion when I spoke on the launch reception panel for IPF Atid’s Women, Peace, and Security Channel in Los Angeles.

Programs and conversations like these do not just shed important light on these critical issues, but they also amplify the voices of the many women and change-makers who are forging ahead in these difficult times. Through such persevering efforts and with your continued enthusiastic support, we can work together for a future with greater gender parity, more effective decision-making processes, and ultimately stronger policy outcomes to otherwise insurmountable challenges.

Best wishes,

Dr. Shira Efron
Policy Advisor, Israel Policy Forum


Join Shira in conversation with other leading WPS voices on May 13: