Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved increasing the 2019 budget for a plan to fight domestic violence on Wednesday, raising it from 30 million shekels ($8 million) to 50 million shekels (about $13.2 million). This sum is part of the 250 million shekels planned for fighting domestic violence over the next five years.
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Much of the additional money – about 14 million shekels of the 20 million – will go mostly to treating abusive and violent men. The 2018 budget for combating domestic violence was 12 million shekels (approximately $3 million). It is still not clear where the additional funds will be coming from, but it seems most likely that it will come from an across-the-board cut in all government ministries.
Netanyahu heads the ministerial committee on dealing with domestic violence, and over the next few weeks, his staff will examine additional funding for the Public Security Ministry and police on the issue.
The additional money will be used to establish four new emergency centers for victims of domestic violence and another transitional housing center for female asylum seekers who suffer from domestic violence, at a cost of 5 million shekels. About 60 social workers who specialize in treating violent men will be funded at a cost of 10 million shekels, and a day treatment center for such men will be established at a cost of 1 million shekels – along with centers for housing and treating these men, at a cost of 2 million shekels.
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The committee on domestic violence was also presented with a survey of the cases in which abusive men received lenient punishments. Netanyahu asked for a study comparing the punishment and rehabilitation of abusive men in western countries within the next two weeks.
Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel presented a plan on Wednesday for dealing with domestic violence in Israel's Arab community, at a cost of 295 million shekels over two years. But the plan for dealing with domestic violence for all of Israel, at a cost of 250 million shekels over five years, has not yet been funded in full. The budgetary shortage for dealing with the issue was one of the major causes of the recent protests against domestic violence. Some of the money for the plan for Arab women will come from the funding intended for the national plan, said sources close to Gamliel.
Gamliel formulated her plan at Netanyahu’s request, in light of the large number of cases of violence against women in the Arab community. The plan still requires approval from the ministerial committee and funding from the Finance Ministry. Her ministry will be in charge of implementing the plan, said Gamliel.
The additional funding, for 2019 and 2020, would go toward removing abusive husbands from their homes to hostels for rehabilitation; opening two new hostels for Arab women suffering from domestic violence (only two such facilities are in operation today); hiring more female Arab investigators and police officers; issuing restraining orders against abusive men; establishing a council of religious and spiritual leaders – half men and half women – to write and issue Islamic religious rulings (fatwas) forbidding violence against women; a public relations campaign in mosques on the issue; and preparing a curriculum for the matriculation exams on gender equality specifically for the Arab community.
The organizers of the women’s protest called the additional budget “an enormous achievement for civil protest. We have proved that together we have power. After hundreds of thousands of women and men proved that the issue must remain on the agenda – we have succeeded in achieving real and important results that will affect the lives of women in this country. This is further proof that the struggle has succeeded.”
The organizers said that now they will continue to ensure that the budgets that are supposed to be allocated over five years will arrive, and they are demanding that the funding be set in law.