MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh is a Canadian Israeli parliamentarian serving in Knesset representing the Blue & White party. She entered the Knesset less than a year ago as part of Israel’s implementation of the controversial ‘Norwegian Law’ when the recently-fallen National Unity government between her party and the Likud was formed and in that short time, has become one of the country’s most outspoken MK’s on a variety of critically important issues such as immigration & absorption, Anti-Semitism and social media, Israel’s participation in international human rights institutions, truth and reconciliation for Israel’s Mizrahi citizens, political and cultural corruption, relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, returning Israelis from captivity in Gaza, and economic policies during the Coronavirus crisis.

Her mother, Ariela Ze’evi served as the late PM Menachem Begin’s parliamentary secretary and Michal grew up having very close relations with the Begin family (during Knesset sessions, her daycare would be with Aliza Begin in the Prime Minister’s residence). When she was 7, she moved to Canada after her mother married Canadian politician and human rights advocate Irwin Cotler. After growing up in Canada, Cotler-Wunsh made Aliyah to serve as a lone soldier. Later, she would return to Canada, after which she returned to Israel eight years ago with her spouse and four children.

During her military service as an officer in various training and command positions, she became aware of the complexity of the Israeli social mosaic.
Michal received her LL.B. from the Hebrew University Faculty of Law and an LL.M from the McGill University Faculty of Law in Montreal, Canada. As part of her master’s degree thesis (entitled, ‘Addressing Power Imbalances in Divorce Mediation: Family, Feminism, and Foucault’), she studied power imbalances and how to address them in mediation processes, including a analysis from a gender perspective.

While studying law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she worked as the assistant to the current President of the Supreme Court, Justice Miriam Naor, in her previous position as a District Court justice during the Deri trial. Additionally, she worked in the Ministry of Justice in consultation and legislation and coordinated the Civil Codification Committee chaired by Justice Aharon Barak on the ministry’s behalf. In addition, she worked as an attorney in the private sector. During her years in Canada, she worked in mediation, formal and informal education, and extensive public activity.

Michal’s key roles before being elected to the Knesset include a being fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and a board member of Tzav Pius (‘Reconciliation Order’), a nonprofit that strives to bring together Israelis who hold different worldviews on the religious-secular spectrum. Currently, she is writing her doctoral thesis in an international interdisciplinary program for ethics, law, and politics at the Hebrew University, researching freedom of speech and its effects, in its various contexts. In her work in the Law in the Service of the Community program at Tel Aviv University, she studied the issue of legal services to nonprofit organizations, which led to significant involvement in the field. In her most recent position, she was the director of the international relations department at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and was in charge of sexual harassment prevention. Among other things, she headed efforts to plan, develop, and strengthen connections between Israel and the Diaspora in various contexts, while raising awareness and providing profound exposure to challenges and opportunities. Furthermore, she initiated and directed student and alumni preparedness for travelling to campuses around the world and attacks from the BDS movement, and she lectured on the subject at conferences in Israel and abroad.

As a religious, liberal woman and jurist, who has lived both in North America and Israel, she developed extensive and meaningful ties with many people from diverse backgrounds through an understanding of local cultures and appreciation of interpersonal communication. As someone who has dealt throughout her professional life with the liminal space between the academia and the practical world through critical examinations of legal, educational, and social theories in light of real life, she regularly writes and publishes opinion pieces on various platforms, including the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Canadian Jewish News, and Maariv.

Links:

Profile & Bio on the Knesset website

Terrific profiles on Cotler-Wunsh in the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel

MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh’s Twitter, @CotlerWunsh

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