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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2011

Sarai Aharoni
University of Michigan


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.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2011

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