ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Bill author Sa'ar: Moves 'displays contempt for human lives'

Ministers again delay bill to monitor domestic violence abusers, drawing anger

Panel rejects legislation initiated by previous coalition to electronically track offenders; Ben Gvir promises new version tackling false accusations against men within a month

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on February 15, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on February 15, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For the second week in a row, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday decided to reject a bill initiated by the previous coalition to introduce electronic tracking of domestic violence offenders, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir promising to bring a more “balanced” version that also tackles false accusations against men.

After deciding last week to delay any further discussions on former justice minister Gideon Sa’ar’s bill by six months, the ministerial panel decided to again discuss the bill following the latest domestic murder in the country.

On Friday, police arrested a Haifa resident on suspicion of murdering his wife, a mother of three. Darya Leitel, 31, had previously complained of threats from her husband. She was the fifth femicide victim in Israel since the start of the year.

During the discussion on Sunday, the ministers again decided to reject the current version of the legislation, which had already passed its first reading in the previous Knesset and could have been expedited.

Ben Gvir said during the meeting that he intends to bring a “balanced,” government-backed version within a month, even though the Knesset will be in recess from the end of next week until April 30.

“On the one hand it will give an answer to women who have been harmed, but on the other hand it will feature the correct balance to prevent false accusations against men,” Ben Gvir said during the meeting.

Darya Leitel, allegedly murdered by her husband on March 17, 2023 (Courtesy)

Under the original proposed legislation, geolocation technology would be used to ensure that an offender regarded by a judge as dangerous does not come within a distance specified by a restraining order.

The law proposed by Sa’ar — now an opposition member — is regarded by professionals as life-saving, the Haaretz news site reported last week.

Sa’ar blasted the new delay in a statement, saying: “This is a balanced bill drafted after lengthy preparations by all professional elements, and approved unanimously in first reading by the previous Knesset. The series of delays due to Ben Gvir’s whim displays contempt for human lives.”

MK Gideon Sa’ar attends a faction meeting of the National Unity Party at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Women’s rights groups also slammed the decision.

“Ben Gvir has now become the national security minister for men only,” said Israel Women’s Network CEO Hadas Daniely Yelin, adding that the move shows the far-right minister “doesn’t care” about abused women and has “caved to pressure from his friends who consider women inferior.”

The current right-religious coalition includes two Haredi parties, which do not include female lawmakers and have pushed for gender-based segregation in the public sphere.

Hagit Pe’er, CEO of Na’amat, commented: “When will Israel understand that this isn’t a matter of coalition or opposition? When will they stop dragging their feet at the expense of women and children who are forced to keep hiding in shelters and to live in fear?”

Illustrative: An ankle bracelet (Video screenshot WGN News; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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 percent increase over the previous year.

Among the reports, 3,432 were about violence directed against women in a relationship, 184 reports were made by men suffering from abuse in a relationship, and 1,266 were about violence directed at children by a family member.

Data also showed that more people were seeking help from welfare centers that support victims of domestic violence. Throughout 2021, some 21,491 people sought help, compared to about 19,337 people in 2020 — an 11% increase.

According to the Israel Observatory on Femicide, 24 women last year were “murdered because they were women,” a 50% rise over the 16 such murders recorded in 2021. Half of those murders were in the Arab community, which makes up just 21% of the population.

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. Additionally, there is the issue of unreported assaults, which are missing from official statistics.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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