Netanyahu Taken to Task Over Domestic Violence Proposal

The Israeli prime minister is being compelled to 'to act, not buy time,' over a committee on domestic violence — two years after a similar committee made recommendations that his cabinet endorsed, but never funded

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A battered women's shelter in 2016.
A battered women's shelter in 2016.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he would convene and chair a ministerial committee on domestic violence — two years after another committee established for the same purpose made recommendations that his cabinet endorsed but never funded.

The cabinet approved those recommendations in July 2017, three years after the prior committee on domestic violence was established. Matters were further complicated on Sunday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, when the prime minister was informed that a ministerial committee on violence, including domestic violence, currently exists.

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After the existence of the more general committee on violence was noted at Sunday's cabinet meeting, the matter was resolved with a cabinet decision specifying that the prime minister would chair the next session of the committee on violence that is devoted to domestic violence. The committee is normally chaired by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. One source said the session would be used to address issues on which the prime minister’s decision is needed, such as funding, priorities and disputes among various ministries.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, visited a women's shelter for victims of domestic violence. The visit was timed to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the other members of his governing coalition voted against an opposition proposal to set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the murder of women by their spouses, former spouses and other family members. In a television interview with journalist Oded Ben-Ami, Sara Netanyahu said she was shocked to hear that her husband opposed the idea of such an inquiry.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about this,” she said. “I think he also hasn't been so aware ... I’m shocked, because I think it’s a mark of Cain on our society, and as a society, we can’t permit this.”

The coalition’s opposition to the parliamentary inquiry sparked outrage on social media and from women’s organizations.

During the prime minister's visit to the shelter on Sunday, Naomi Schneiderman, executive director of the non-profit Woman to Woman, asked him why he voted against the proposal. He initially responded: “I wasn’t paying attention,” then said that it was because “it was an opposition proposal.”

Sara Netanyahu then interjected: “On this issue, there really should be no coalition and opposition. It’s an issue we all share.”

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked spoke about the steps that her ministry was taking on the issue, including a bill to prevent economic violence — a term that is frequently used to include the denial of economic resources to a spouse — and another bill that would permit courts to order electronic monitoring of domestic violence suspects released on bail.

The government is also considering having Israel sign on to the Council of Europe’s Istanbul convention on preventing violence against women. Joining the pact would require Israel to take steps to end all kinds of violence against women, as well as other forms of domestic violence. Among other steps, Israel would be required to adapt its laws to the agreement’s principles, to establish an agency to monitor implementation of the laws and to report to the Council of Europe on an annual basis on the country's policies in the field.

Over the past three years, the Justice Ministry has been examining having Israel become a signatory to the convention as well as the legislation it would require.

Joint List Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman, who chairs the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, and who sponsored the proposal for a parliamentary inquiry, criticized the prime minister's proposal for a ministerial committee on domestic violence, particularly in light of his vote against the convening of a parliamentary committee of inquiry.

“Did you know, prime minister, that there already is such a ministerial committee?” she asked. “Did you know that there is a plan of action that has been approved by the cabinet ministers, but that hasn’t been funded?”

Galia Wolloch, the head of the Na’amat women’s organization, assailed Netanyahu for adding “another committee to the collection.” She said the prime minister needed "to act, not buy time.”

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