Gender and “Peace Work”: An Unofficial History of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations

Authored by: Sarai Aharoni

Categories: Peace Support Operations, Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: De-escalation and Preventive Diplomacy, Democratization and Political Participation, International Agreements, Peace Accords, Peacemaking, Political Transitions, Transitional Justice
Country: Israel
Region: Middle East and North Africa
Year: 2011
Citation: Aharoni, Sarai. “Gender and 'Peace Work': An Unofficial History of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations.” Politics & Gender 7 (2011): 323-49.

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Executive Summary

Unlike earlier attempts to theorize Israeli women’s peace activism in civil society, this article examines the involvement of women in backstage roles of formal negotiations during the Oslo Process. On the basis of a qualitative analysis of the organizational structure and gender division of labor in Israeli negotiating bodies, I find that women were placed as midlevel negotiators and professional and legal advisors, and also served as spokeswomen and secretaries. This pattern of participation reveals 1) that the “security logic,” developed by Israeli negotiators led to, and reinforced, a structured gendered division of labor, providing a rational justification for gender inequality; 2) that the ability to control administrative capacities and women workers generated symbolic masculine power and assisted in maintaining asymmetries between Israeli and Palestinian delegations; 3) and that midlevel Israeli negotiators’ narratives reveal the extent to which conceptual confusion and self-contradictory approaches toward the Oslo Accords reinforced women’s overall invisibility. I conclude that patterns of rigid gender roles in official negotiating structures not only minimize women’s meaningful inclusion in peace negotiations but also affect the production of public historical narratives about gender, peace, and war.