Knesset passes domestic abuse monitoring law after long delays and squabbles

Police minister Ben Gvir led what he calls a ‘balancing’ of the bill put forth by last government, which enables electronic tracking of abusers

A protest against domestic violence as part of a nationwide strike, in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018. The sign reads: 'Electronic tracking [of offenders] saves lives.' (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A protest against domestic violence as part of a nationwide strike, in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018. The sign reads: 'Electronic tracking [of offenders] saves lives.' (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A bill that enables judges to mandate electronic monitoring systems on domestic abusers passed into law on Sunday, after months of delays and sparring over different versions of the legislation.

The law, presented by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, authorizes electronically-monitored restraining orders, but requires more preconditions for ordering them than a former version of the bill that was put forward by the previous government.

Ben Gvir had said he wanted a version of the bill that was more “balanced” and addressed false accusations against abuse suspects.

“This is an important and balanced proposal,” Ben Gvir said in a statement Sunday following the law’s passage. “This assessment of risk was the bare minimum for us.”

The law, which passed 44-0, is officially an emergency order which will expire in three years. It only goes into effect next year.

“After several years of legislating, we are finally putting cuffs on anyone who causes harm, or is clearly liable to cause harm, in order to allow families to have a normal life,” said Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel, who spearheaded the latest version of the bill in the Knesset.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks in the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 30, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The modified legislation — formulated by Ben Gvir in coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, other ministers and professionals — is significantly different from a previous version that the far-right police minister had championed, which would have only allowed the tracking of potential abusers who already carry a prior violence conviction.

The updated bill still generally authorizes courts to issue a protection order against individuals considered dangerous to their families only if they have already been charged or convicted of violence, and only after a social worker has assessed the level of danger they pose.

Crucially, the latest version includes an exception to those rules: if a judge is convinced a case is urgent, he or she is authorized to order electronic tagging even if none of the conditions is met, until the potential abuser’s dangerousness is assessed. That change largely brings it in line with the version initiated by the previous government and torpedoed in a Knesset vote in March.

Critics of the government had accused it of dragging its feet and reworking the legislation unnecessarily in order to take credit for a law that was initially put forward by the last government.

“The monitoring law has passed,” tweeted Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari, who was one of the MKs to put forward the original version of the bill. “The same law with a few small changes — most of them not good.”

Yesh Atid MK Matti Sarfatti Harcavi said the passage of the law “could have been a happy moment, except for the unnecessary delay caused by the ‘national failure minister,’ who insisted on changes which made it less effective.”

Likud Minister May Golan during a vote in the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 30, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud’s Minister for the Advancement of the Status of Women May Golan — who voted against an earlier version of the bill in March — lauded Sunday’s passage, and said her office would continue to “ignore the background noise and continue our nonstop work for the people of Israel.”

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman, former chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, welcomed the passage of the law “that I fought to pass for eight years.”

Touma-Sliman called the new law “an essential tool for defending women and children who are victims of violence,” adding that she was “very happy despite the attempts of the minister [Ben Gvir] to empty the law of its content.”

Since the start of the year, at least 17 women have been murdered in Israel, according to the Israel Women’s Network, amounting to a killing every 11 days. According to the Israel Observatory on Femicide, in 2022, 24 women were “murdered because they were women,” a 50 percent rise over the 16 such murders recorded in 2021.

A report released in November by the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry showed that between January and October of 2022, the ministry received 5,712 complaints of domestic violence — a 3.6% increase over the previous year.

While data is scarce on false domestic violence accusations, researchers around the world agree that the number of actual assaults far outweighs the number of false claims.

Most Popular
read more: