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Israelis in November protesting efforts to impose gender segregation on public buses on routes that serve charedi enclaves. This week, the cabinet ordered the Transportation and Road Safety Ministry to take steps to prohibit such efforts. Miriam Alster/Flash 90

JERUSALEM ““ Israel’s cabinet approved a plan to increase the participation of women in municipal government.

The plan, part of the Knesset’s marking of International Women’s Day, is meant to increase the representation of women on local councils from its current 12 percent.

The cabinet also put into effect some recommendations of the Committee to Prevent the Exclusion of Women, which deals with complaints from the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women hotline, and agreed to an advertising campaign to increase awareness regarding the exclusion of women.

The recommendations from the committee put into effect:

“¢ The Civil Service Commission issued directives against the exclusion of women at government and state ceremonies. Last November, Dr. Channa Maayan, a Hebrew University pediatrics professor, was not permitted on stage to accept an award from the Health Ministry. She was told a male colleague would have to accept the award for her, while she sat in the audience and watched.

“¢ The Transportation and Road Safety Ministry opened a hotline to deal with instances of women being excluded on public transportation. The ministry will require transportation companies to post signs banning such exclusion. There have been numerous instances of such exclusions – and even the physical removal of women from buses – over the last few months.

“¢ The Religious Services Ministry will instruct burial societies, the Chief Rabbinate, and religious councils to prohibit excluding women from delivering eulogies at funerals and otherwise participating in the burial of loved ones.

“¢ The Justice Ministry will evaluate instances in which women have been restricted in media that are subject to regulation.

“¢ The Israel Police will step up enforcement regarding offenses against women.

Last week, towards the end of his keynote speech to the 2012 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that, “as prime minister of Israel, I will always protect Israel’s democracy – always. I will never allow anything to threaten Israel’s democratic way of life. and most especially, I will never tolerate any discrimination against women….”

He repeated that pledge on Sunday. The place of women in the public space must be ensured and equal, he said.

“Israel is a democratic country. There is no place in it either for harassment or for discrimination,” he said. “We will act against cases of exclusion and will encourage the involvement of women in public life.”

Netanyahu added, “In a country with women pilots, women will be everywhere.”

JTA Wire Service