Maya Vishniak, Tatiana Khaikin, Mastwell Alaza – all three of these women were murdered by their partners over the past two weeks. Ten women have been killed in 2020, which hasn’t yet reached the halfway mark. At the same time, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, the number of calls about domestic violence to welfare agencies, the police and the Justice Ministry’s legal aid department has risen dramatically over the past few months.
Three of the year’s murder suspects were already known to the authorities. Welfare authorities know of some 13,000 women who have reported domestic violence. The actual number of victims is obviously higher, because many don’t report abuse. This fact proves that Israel’s handling of domestic violence is flawed. Even when welfare agencies can anticipate violence, they aren’t necessarily capable of preventing murders or injuries.
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A committee on preventing domestic violence, dubbed “urgent” (evidently sarcastically) in 2014, prepared a plan that the cabinet approved in 2017 to bring about the desired change. Not surprisingly, however, its funding has been delayed and reduced, and its full implementation was recently postponed until 2024. Who knows how many Mayas and Tatianas will pay for this delay with their lives?
The minuscule budget allotted to saving these women’s lives and those of their children is shameful, especially given the quantity of ministries, ministers and deputy ministers in the new government. The fact that coalition negotiators didn’t even consider the issue of violence against women yet did come up with so many other creative ideas, shows just how vital this issue is to the country’s leaders. For them, it’s just another uninteresting item in the unimportant social affairs portfolio.
In a government that includes ministries for “strengthening and developing communities” and for “higher education and water resources” plus a minister in the Prime Minister’s office who isn’t the prime minister, nobody saw fit to devote a ministry to an issue that must be addressed on a national level, or even to demand more funding for it. Why didn’t Orli Levi-Abekasis, who was rewarded with a made-up ministry in exchange for defecting to the rightist bloc, demand that she get one dealing with women’s safety rather than a ministry for everyone and nothing? Was there not even one among the new cabinet’s distinguished women who saw fit to use the enormous power and resources in her hands to protect women who have fallen victim to violence?
Judging by programs to reduce domestic violence that have been tried both in Israel and abroad, addressing the issue in the education system from a young age and treating violent men appear to be effective ways to reduce the scope of the problem. Neither of these requires a large budget, and both can be implemented immediately. And these are just two parts of the plan to prevent domestic violence that have never been implemented. How many more women must be murdered before the government wakes up?
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.