Israel Promised to Monitor Violent Men in 2020, but the Plan Is Still Not Off the Ground

The Public Security Ministry unit to combat domestic violence in Israel was due to take off in September 2020. Two years on, the taskforce is far from launching, but a comprehensive plan will be presented to the new minister

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Attendees light candles at a Tel Aviv protest against the murder of women, in May 2020.
Attendees light candles at a Tel Aviv protest against the murder of women, in May 2020. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

After two women were murdered by their partners in the span of a week in March 2020, the public security minister ordered the establishment of a unit that would track men with a history of domestic violence, slated for September of that year. The date has long passed, but the unit still has not been established, and the ministry says the process will take another year at least.

After Mastwell Alaza and Tatiana Khaikin were murdered last year by their partners, a week apart from each other, then-Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan ordered a unit be set up to track violent men using GPS. In both murders, the defendants charged with the crimes had already served time in prison for violence against their wives, but nonetheless returned to their homes and stabbed them to death.

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Following the September 2020 target date, the Public Security Ministry said at the time that the delay was caused by the fact that the state budget had not been approved, and added that legislation changes would be needed in order to establish the unit.

The unit is supposed to use GPS bracelets and phone location apps to track defendants and those convicted of domestic violence offenses, as well as people with protective orders – those whose families have restraining orders against them. It is intended to operate similarly to the Zur unit of the Prison Service, which monitors child sexual abusers who have been released from prison, though it has not yet been decided which organization will lead it.

According to the plan, domestic offenders will be monitored according to risk categories – starting from high-risk suspects about whom they received intelligence, to released convicts, to people who have been arrested and released but have not yet been tried. The location of each one will be tracked to ensure that he is not close to the telephone of the woman he is accused of harming. The ministry also wants to assemble a mobile team on motorcycles that can reach the scene quickly after receiving a warning. In the first stage, according to officials in the ministry, the plan will be limited to 100 participants, and will be expanded later.

This week, the Public Security Ministry said that it is in the final stages of drafting a comprehensive working plan in preparation of establishing the unit, and that in coming days it will be brought before the present minister, Omer Bar-Lev. But after Bar-Lev approves the plan, it will need to be brought before other government ministries, such as welfare and justice, hence the full approval for the unit is likely to take at least a year.

Since October 2020, the police and local authorities' welfare departments are notified whenever a person defined as a "dangerous prisoner" is about to be released from prison. But in the case of administrative release – that is, when prisoners are allowed out early due to overcrowding in facilities – they receive the message just days before the actual release, making it difficult for authorities to prepare. Recently, a senior official in the Welfare Ministry told Haaretz that the ministry is hoping to amend the law so violent offenders, including those imprisoned for domestic violence, would not be eligible for administrative release.

According to Prison Service figures, until October 2021, 1,322 prisoners who were convicted of domestic violence got out of prison on administrative release. According to data collected by Haaretz, in 2019 and 2020, 1,978 men were sent to Welfare Ministry rehabilitation and aid programs for domestic violence crimes. Most were defendants in criminal proceedings, and a few were in civil proceedings.

Last week, an amendment to the bill to prevent domestic violence passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset, and faced no opposition. The amendment would allow a person who has a protective order issued against them to be fitted with a monitoring device. According to data provided to Haaretz by the Courts Administration, an average of 10,000 requests per year were submitted for protective orders from the courts from 2018 through 2020. The figure was 9,800 in 2018, and about 10,000 in 2019, and 10,253 in 2020. This year, through the end of September, 7,295 such requests were submitted.

The bill, sponsored by MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzanu (Yesh Atid), had two similar bills attached to it from MKs Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) and Keren Barak (Likud). According to the unified proposed law, a court that issues a protective order will be authorized to determine whether the defendant will be supervised electronically, in cases where the person violated a previous order, was convicted in the past of violent offenses, or if his case is deemed dangerous enough. But according to the 2016 inter-ministerial committee on violence against women, law enforcement does not have the tools to supervise protective orders.

Barak told Haaretz: “Violation of protective orders fell by dozens of percentage points in all the countries where the electronic cuff were used. The bracelet's deterrence is enormous and prevents the attacker from reaching the victim just because of the very understanding that he is being tracked at all times.”

Touma-Sliman said that as part of the establishment of the unit, the Public Security Ministry intends to make the Prison Service responsible for enforcement. This will be insufficient, she said, because the service is only authorized to deal with convicts, and not with people who have not yet finished their legal proceedings.

Touma-Sliman submitted another bill that would require judges to request an opinion or memorandum that examines the readiness of a convict charged with domestic violence offenses for treatment. The bill passed its first reading in the previous Knesset, and it is expected to be brought up soon for its second and third readings.

The Public Security Ministry said they are in the midst of work on the matter and are preparing “to present the minister with solutions and directions for action. After the minister approves the findings of the staff work, ministry representatives will work to receive comments from the relevant ministries and advance the legislation and implementation of the electronic bracelets.”

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