In the State's response to an appeal filed by women's rights groups with the High Court of Justice, former Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel, who heads the panel probing the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, said appointing a woman to the committee would be of no consequence as most of the testimonies have already been heard.
High Court justices instructed the cabinet to discuss on August 29 the appointment of at least one woman to the Turkel Commission. The justices also ruled that if an appointment is offered to at least five women who had not previously been offered the position by the date of the cabinet deliberation, the government will have fulfilled its obligation even if the women decline the post.
In the meantime, the commission will continue its work as usual.
According to the State's response, filed Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to debate the issue with his cabinet and asked Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman to ask for Turkel's opinion on the matter.
"The committee's chairman is of the position that since the panel has already heard the main testimonies from Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, appointing a woman or women to the panel would contribute nothing to its work," according to the State's response.
The State insists that "active efforts" had been made to seek out a female panel member.
The five members and two observers on the Turkel Commission are men, but women's groups are demanding that this be changed. The women's group, Itach Women Lawyers for Social Justice and the group WePower filed a petition against Netanyahu and the Turkel Commission with a demand that they appoint a woman to the commission.
The organizations also asked that an interim injunction be issued ordering the suspension of the commission's activities until the petition is fully deliberated and decided upon.
The petition claims that despite the importance of the commission's conclusions and its effect on Israel's international standing, the cabinet authorized the makeup of the Turkel Commission in complete opposition to the law of equality and women's rights. Even after the decision was made to expand the commission, the petition claims, the government made no effort to appoint at least one woman to the panel.
On Wednesday the High Court criticized the government for excluding women from the panel.
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