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A new Knesset initiative calls for the creation of a children's rights commission to safeguard the rights of children in Israel.

Behind the initiative is MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima ), who has worked together with UNICEF Israel on legislation to advance the matter, which will be presented to the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child. MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi ), who heads the committee, said the legislation will be presented within a few weeks.

Meanwhile, retired Judge Saviona Rotlevi has criticized the Education Ministry harshly for neglecting the issue.

"There is intentional silencing of the issue of rights of children in the educational system," said Rotlevi, who was charged with implementing the International Convention on Children's Rights in the Israeli legal system. "The state is obligated to implement and disseminate the convention, but in recent years nothing has happened; on the contrary, there is significant regression," she charged.

The International Convention on Children's Rights, which was ratified by 200 states, including Israel, 20 years ago, recommended that each country establish a statutory body to protect children's rights. Two months ago, Haaretz reported that UNICEF had concluded in a report that Israel had not adopted any strategy or national plan for the rights of children, and that unlike many other countries, had not established an official commission to protect and advance the rights of children.

Work on the new legislation to create the commission began several weeks ago.

Tirosh said that although the Israel National Council for the Child, a non-profit organization, "is doing fantastic work, in the end, they rely on donations and have no authority. An official body is necessary to protect the children."

Orlev said that the commission will be empowered by the government and "it will be entitled to demand reports, enforce existing laws and propose legislation."

The draft legislation stipulates that the commission will operate to "defend the rights of the children and pupils in Israel on the basis of the International Convention on Children's Rights."

Tirosh has proposed that the commission not only focus on education but also advise the government and publish periodic reports on the subject of children's rights.

A similar bill was prepared by UNICEF Israel, and its chairman, attorney Moriel Matalon, said that "children in Israel are the future of the state and we are abandoning them. Children's issues are handled by eight different ministries, and there is not a single body that can have a full picture. The answer to the problem is in the International Convention for Children's Rights, which recommended setting up such a body. It is hard to understand why it has not happened to date." It is likely the that first head of the new commission will be the director of the Israel National Council for the Child, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman.

"If the commission becomes part of the political appointments apparatus or simply a voice box without a budget, it would be a waste of time and investment," Kadman said in response. "The new body must have clear authority and express the commitment of the government to implementing the international convention."