Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday expressed support for a protest held outside the Knesset decrying violence against women, but when he came to speak to the demonstrators they shouted at him and called for “actions before words.”
The protest, attended by dozens of women and men, was held after two women were found dead earlier this week in suspected murders by their partners.
There have been 19 known cases this year of women being murdered in domestic violence cases, according to a tally by the Ynet news site. Thirteen Israeli women were murdered in 2019 in such incidents. In 2018, 25 women were murdered by someone known to them, the highest number in years.
Many of those women had filed police complaints prior to their deaths out of concern for their safety.
The demonstrators gathered outside the parliament in Jerusalem to protest the fact that a national plan to fight domestic violence was approved in 2017 by the Knesset and has since been abandoned, waiting for funding. Activists say most of the approved NIS 250 million ($71 million) has not yet been transferred to relevant authorities.
When Gantz came to address the protesters, some shouted at him, including one who said: “The government is accepting the reality that women are getting murdered. Actions before words.”
“I won’t hesitate to come here, even at the price of being shouted at, in order to clarify how important this matter is to me,” Gantz replied. “Dealing with this is critical for Israeli society. Police have to work and the numbers must go way down.
“The ability to fight the phenomenon depends on a state budget that will enable us to fight for populations that need us,” he added, echoing a demand by his Blue and White party that Netanyahu quickly pass a state budget for 2020 and 2021.
The issue has been tied to party politics since according to the power-sharing deal signed by Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, failure to pass the budget is the only scenario in which Netanyahu avoids the need to hand Gantz the premiership late next year. Gantz has repeatedly accused Netanyahu of holding up the budget for this reason.
One protester interrupted Gantz and said: “We don’t believe a word you say. Traitor!” That was a reference to Gantz’s election promise not to join forces with Netanyahu, which he reneged on earlier this year to form a unity government.
Other demonstrators then asked her not to bring up matters unrelated to violence against women.
A dozen more ministers and lawmakers from Blue and White, Labor and opposition factions Yesh Atid and the Joint List exited the Knesset to address the protesters and express solidarity.
Hagit Pe’er, head of the Na’amat women’s advocacy group, said on Monday that the government was continuing in its failure to take action on the issue of violence against women.
“The wave of terrorism against women continues, the writing is on the wall and the government simply does not care,” Pe’er told Channel 12. “Around 200,000 women in Israel live with violence — the coronavirus has turned their homes into prisons, the economic and psychological pressures are turning it into a life-threatening situation. We are tired of the lip service of elected officials after every such murder — what are you doing to prevent the next murder?”
Police and social services organizations have reported a major rise in domestic violence complaints since the start of the coronavirus crisis.