Amid national outcry, NIS 50m budget approved to fight domestic violence

Netanyahu compares violent men to terrorists as he announces funds to combat violence against women; women’s lobby says plan doesn’t go far enough

Activists protest against violence against women, near the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, December 16, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Activists protest against violence against women, near the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, December 16, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The government on Sunday announced it had earmarked NIS 50 million (approximately $13.5 million) to fight domestic violence in 2019, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the plan will focus on the abusers.

The total budget sees an additional NIS 20 million ($5.3 million) added to the initial NIS 30 million ($8 million) the government had previously announced would be allocated for the issue.

“Today we will approve a government decision that will focus on dealing with the attackers. Until now there has been no treatment of attackers — now we are focusing on them, not just the victims, as we do when dealing with terror,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the cabinet meeting. “We deal with terrorists first of all. We also treat the victims, but first of all we have to deal with the perpetrators.”

The prime minister said the plan will also focus on the Arab community, after a spate of murders of Arab Israeli women.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly government cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, January 6, 2019 (Alex Kolomoisky/Yedioth Ahronoth/Pool)

The government’s program includes provisions for the expansion of outpatient treatment centers for violent men and the establishment of two emergency centers, as well as multidisciplinary protection for victims of domestic violence. The budget will also be used to develop tools and training for professionals and the founding of a research center.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon threw his support behind the plan.

“Violence against women is a blow to society that must be fought by all means possible,” Kahlon said.

Israelis protest against violence against women in the northern Israeli city of Safed, December 4, 2018 (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Israel Women’s Network responded cautiously to the announcement, welcoming the move but adding that law enforcement agencies must be given further tools to ensure the safety of women. It said the Education Ministry must implement programs to teach the importance of gender equality.

“This is an important decision with the necessary budget, and we welcome the focus on treating abusive men. But in the light of the current state of emergency, it is not enough,” the lobby group wrote in a statement, according to Channel 10 news. “The Education and Public Security ministries must be partners alongside the Welfare Ministry, and they are not part of the current program.

“Additional emergency measures, including training, standards and budgets, are required for the police and legal system to to enforce protective orders, to provide a comprehensive response to women who ask the authorities for protection, and to deal holistically with abusive men. This must include budgets for education programs on gender equality,” read the statement. “We will not stop until all these steps are implemented.”

Thousands rally at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square as part of a nationwide strike protesting the violence against women, December 4, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The budget increase comes amid national outrage over domestic violence.

In December 2018 thousands of women went on strike and tens of thousands rallied across the country to protest women killed by a partner, family member, or someone known to them, and what they say is the authorities’ failure to stem a sharp increase in violence against women.

A day after the protests Netanyahu said that he considers violence against women a form of terrorism and vowed to allocate funds to fight it.

The protests capped a week of smaller demonstrations prompted after two teen girls were found murdered on November 26.

Yara Ayoub, 16, from the Galilee village of Jish, left, and Sylvana Tsegai, 13, who was found dead Tel Aviv. Both were found murdered on November 26, 2018. (Hadashot screen capture, courtesy)

Yara Ayoub, 16, was found dead in her Galilee hometown of Jish, three days after she went missing, according to police. Authorities have identified the primary suspect in the murder as a 28-year-old man from the village, and have arrested several others suspected of involvement.

Hours later, Sylvana Tsegai, 13, was found murdered in her Tel Aviv home. Her mother’s former partner Tesfebarhan Tesfasion, who evaded police for several days before being caught, was charged with her rape and murder. According to reports, Tsegai had been known to welfare authorities as a victim of domestic violence. She reportedly called police on Saturday to complain about Tesfasion being in her home.

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