Despite Grand Promises to Fight Domestic Violence, Israel Massively Underfunds Major Program

Governmental scheme delayed by another two years, data obtained by Haaretz shows

A murder scene in Jaffa, after two sisters were killed by their brother, on May 17, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

An Israeli government plan to reduce domestic violence will be fully implemented only in 2024 at the earliest, rather than 2022 as planned, because government ministries have received less than half the amount needed to fund its first two years of operation.

In 2018-19, only 70 million shekels ($20.2 million) was transferred to the relevant government agencies, less than half the 150 million shekels needed to implement the program in those years, according to data compiled by the Social Affairs Ministry.

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Though the plan was originally approved in 2017, no dedicated budget was allocated for it at that time.

The ministry’s document, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, shows that many elements of the plan either haven’t been funded at all or received only a fraction of the funding needed. For instance, 18 million shekels were supposed to be spent on treating abusive men through the end of 2019, but in practice, the ministry received only 2.8 million shekels for this purpose.

Similarly, a program for treating children and teens at centers for domestic violence prevention around the country received only 4.8 million shekels of the 20 million shekels that were supposed to be budgeted for it. And community programs for senior citizens who were victims of abuse received only 4.12 million shekels, rather than the 10.9 million shekels originally planned.

A plan to expand physical protection for people threatened by violence was supposed to receive a budget of five million shekels in 2019, but actually received nothing at all. Nor has any money been allocated thus far to compiling statistics on domestic violence or conducting research into it. And a program to train therapists working in the program received only 600,000 shekels in 2018-19, less than half the 1.26 million shekels envisioned.

The Social Affairs Ministry and the Public Security Ministry had concluded that implementing the program would require a budget of 50 million shekels in the first year. This sum would then have to grow by 50 million shekels a year in each of the following years, until it reached the 250 million shekels needed for full implementation in 2022.

Thus in total, the program should have been budgeted at 150 million shekels for 2018-19 – 50 million shekels in 2018 and 100 million shekels in 2019. But in fact, according to the Social Affairs Ministry data, the budget came to only 20 million shekels in 2018 and 50 million shekels in 2019, for a two-year total of 70 million shekels.

A report by the Knesset’s research center, written by Hedva Kaplinsky, noted that because the amount of money actually budgeted was significantly less than the amount needed, full implementation would now be achievable only in 2024 at best – two years later than originally planned. She also quoted Jasmin Vulej, the Social Affairs Ministry’s national supervisor, as saying that the missing funds had impeded the ministry’s ability to implement the complex program.

The ministry said it used the money it did receive to hire new social workers, 60 to work with abusive men, 68 to treat children who witnessed domestic violence and 50 to help senior citizens who suffered abuse. In addition, it said, it provided training for people from various government ministries who are out in the field, including health-care workers, social workers, educators and Israel Prison Service personnel, to create a “common language” among these professionals.

A battered women's shelter in 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

The program was the brainchild of an inter-ministerial committee on domestic violence that was set up in September 2014. The committee, chaired by the director general of the Public Security Ministry, was tasked with producing an up-to-date picture of the extent of domestic violence, formulating policies for dealing with the issue and coordinating between government agencies and nongovernmental organizations active in the field.

In June 2016, the panel submitted its conclusions. Then-Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz adopted them and set up another inter-ministerial committee to draft a plan for implementing the recommendations.

In June 2017, this plan was approved in principle by the ministerial committee on domestic violence, headed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. In July 2017, the full cabinet approved the plan in principle and said it should be implemented 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.

Last year, Haaretz reported on Kaplinsky’s conclusion that it was impossible to know how much had actually been budgeted for the program in 2017 and 2018, how much of that sum was actually spent and how much would be budgeted for it in the coming years. But now that the Social Affairs Ministry document has provided some of this missing data, it’s clear that the program has been massively underfunded.