Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked called yesterday in a letter to Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar to stop Israel’s process of joining the Istanbul Convention, which is considered the highest standard of the international struggle against domestic violence. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is based on four principles: prevention, treatment, prosecution and policy coordination. So far, more than 40 countries have joined the convention. Doing so will advance the required, lifesaving actions to prevent violence to women and children, will make possible programs to be implemented by all state agencies and will assist in cooperation between them and social organizations. This is an important and necessary component in the multi-front battle that must be waged against domestic violence.
Shaked’s opposition is based mainly on three out of 60 clauses in the convention that deal with issues of political asylum and immigration policies. Her opposition echoes a well-orchestrated campaign by far right groups trying to instill fear in the public and its representatives – that a wave of women from other countries will take advantage of the Istanbul Convention to infiltrate into Israel and thus destroy the Jewish identity of the state.
There is no basis for this fear. After all, Justice Minister Sa’ar is only continuing the work that began during the term in office of Shaked herself – who at the time supported the convention.
Sa’ar said that Israel would object to one of the clauses and would add an “interpretive declaration” to the others. Such a declaration would allow Israel to make clear how it intends to interpret the convention in a way that will ensure that there would be no change in the immigration policy as it stands today, and, perish the thought, will not impinge on the level of cruelty with which Israel acts toward refugees and the weak.
There are no grounds for suspecting that Shaked fails to understand the importance of Israel joining the convention – not only on the declarative level, but also for the sake of true advancement of protection of women and children against violence by men. But these goals are of no interest to Shaked. It is more important to her to sow panic about the supposed damage to “the core of the sovereignty and national security of the state,” although the Justice Ministry has supplied responses to the clauses that disturb Shaked so much.
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In an attempt to reap sympathy among the xenophobic minority, which opposes any hint of equality between the sexes, Shaked is leading the opposition to Israel’s joining the convention. The price will be paid by the women in Israel.
Shaked’s statement, that she welcomes “this aspiration to uproot all forms of violence against women,” does not correspond to her opposition to joining the international convention. Her choice to support the camp that despises equality is clear. The rest of the government ministers must not follow in her footsteps.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.