After Leaving Ministry, Israeli Lawmaker Vows to Look Into Stalled Program on Domestic Violence

Ten women have died in Israel this year, but a flagship program to deal with the issue was never fully implemented. Now, as Knesset panel chief, Haim Katz promises 'improvements' while a separate committee on femicide is set up

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Former Welfare Minister Haim Katz in the Knesset, Jerusalem, February 17, 2020.
Former Welfare Minister Haim Katz in the Knesset, Jerusalem, February 17, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Israeli lawmaker Haim Katz on Tuesday vowed to deal with the issue of violence against women in his new role as chairman of the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee, promising to look into why a preventative plan that was approved three years ago was never put into action.

The implementation of the plan is under the responsibility of the welfare minister, who, until last week, was the very same Haim Katz.

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Professionals sought 50 million shekels (around $14.25 million) a year over five years, but since the program was approved, only 30 million shekels (around $8.5 million) were provided annually, according to ministry data that Haaretz requested.

Recently, officials have asked to extend the program through 2024.

“It isn’t easy to see parents mourning their children murdered by spouses or partners,” Katz said in a statement citing failures in the program’s implementation during his tenure. “As welfare minister, I drew up a five—year plan aimed at dealing with domestic violence at a cost of 250 million shekels. Unfortunately the plan wasn’t implemented quickly enough.”

“We shall make huge efforts to prevent another murder but it won’t be enough,” he wrote.

Katz added that once the Labor and Welfare Committee is established, “I will hold a special session to figure out what more can be done and where we must make improvements.”

Several ministry sources mocked Katz’s remarks.

“The minister was responsible for the program for quite an extended time,” one source said. “It’s ridiculous for him to look into what he himself didn’t do to force the treasury to make sure all the money was transferred. He’s known to be a bulldozer who knows how to get budgets transferred, and then in effect he admits that the program wasn’t fully funded.”

An installation on Tel Aviv's Habima Square set up to protest violence against women, December 4, 2018.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Meanwhile, Knesset factions agreed on Wednesday to set up a sub-committee of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, which will focus on governmental response to femicide. It would replace a proposed commission that would have investigated the issue.

Ten women were murdered since the beginning of the year in Israel, three of them since the end of last month. The latest victim is Maya Vishniak, 22, who was strangled to death by her partner in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan on Saturday.

Two weeks earlier, 50-year-old Tatiana Khaikin from Bat Yam was murdered. Her partner called the police to inform them that he had killed her. A few days earlier, 31-year-old Mastwell Alaza was murdered in Holon, with her husband confessing to the murder the next day. Last month, 42-year-old Mervat Dasuki from Lod was murdered in front of her children. A resident of the city was arrested on suspicion of being involved

Last Saturday, more than 1,000 people demonstrated in Habima Square in Tel Aviv to ask the authorities deal with violence against women. Some of the signs read “Where is the Minister of Women’s Murder?,” a reference to the inflated number of ministers in Israel’s new government.

Women protest Israeli government inaction on domestic violence in Tel Aviv, May 17, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

In September 2014, a decision was made to urgently establish an interministerial committee to deal with domestic violence, chaired by the deputy director-general of the public security ministry. The panel issued recommendations in June 2016, which Katz adopted, ordering the establishment of an interministerial committee to draw up a plan to carry out these recommendations.

In July 2017, the cabinet adopted the principles of the plan and decided it must be carried out as soon as possible. But no dedicated budget was ever earmarked for it, even though the social affairs and public security ministries promised at the time that its budget would reach 250 million shekels within five years.

At the end of last year, a report by the Knesset’s research center noted that full implementation would now be achievable only in 2024 at best – two years later than originally planned.

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