Coalition lawmakers narrowly voted down a bill Wednesday that would have mandated an electronic monitoring system to track domestic abusers, drawing furious outrage from opposition members and others who say the system could help save lives.
The legislation, which would have helped enforce restraining orders against abusers, fell 54-53 on its preliminary reading in the Knesset, as lawmakers brawled verbally, leading to several being removed from the plenum.
Ahead of the vote, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir was met with cries of “shame” from opposition members, as he concluded a speech urging lawmakers to reject the measure.
Ben Gvir has promised to advance his own version of the legislation, which he claims will go further to balance men’s rights against the needs of women in potential danger.
Some 20 opposition MKs enveloped Ben Gvir as he stepped down grinning from the rostrum, chanting against him along with others in the aisles, a chaotic spectacle even by the Knesset’s often indecorous standards.
About a dozen female MKs from the opposition also held up monitoring bracelets while attempting to shout down Ben Gvir.
Shas MK Uriel Busso, sitting in as Knesset speaker, ordered some 10 lawmakers removed over the disturbances, leading Yisrael Beytenu MK Evgeny Sova to attack him for “throwing women out of the plenum.”
מהומה בכנסת בדיון על חוק האיזוק האלקטרוני – חברי כנסת התגודדו סביב הדוכן וקראו לעבר בן גביר ״בושה״. גם חברות כנסת מהליכוד זועמות על כך שהחוק לא אושר לפחות בטרומית. pic.twitter.com/xCPWNIHkG8
— דפנה ליאל (@DaphnaLiel) March 22, 2023
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Ben Gvir, who later returned to the podium, had accused the opposition of trying to push the issue by capitalizing on the suspected murder of a Haifa woman last week after she had complained of threats from her husband.
“You are dancing on the blood of a murdered woman,” he said.
Under the rejected legislation, initiated by the previous coalition before being stalled by the current one, geolocation technology would have been used to ensure that an offender regarded by a judge as dangerous does not come within a distance specified by a restraining order.
Hagit Pe’er, CEO of the women’s rights organization, Na’amat, accused the government after the vote of “directly endangering the lives of women.” Professionals have described the use of GPS-backed monitoring of domestic abuse restraining orders as life-saving, Haaretz reported.
The original bill, proposed by former justice minister Gideon Sa’ar, passed a first reading in the previous Knesset, making it eligible to be fast-tracked by the current parliament.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government initially said it would suspend discussion of the bill for six months, but on Sunday brought it to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which declined to grant it government support, dooming the measure and sending it back to square one.
Sa’ar said after Wednesday’s vote that he had tried to work with the government on shepherding the measure through, “but the government decided that it’s more important to topple a proposal just to signal that the murder of women is unimportant and not urgent even when there is serious danger.”
Ben Gvir told the Knesset that “in a month, I’ll present a serious law that will protect women, something you haven’t managed in a year and a half.”
Four related opposition bills to give courts power to order electronic tracking were also voted down.
Hebrew-language media reports indicated that the issue had created a rift within the hard-right religious coalition, with more moderate lawmakers attempting to rein in Ben Gvir on the issue.
“We are following Ben Gvir’s whims as captives and voting against our conscience,” an unnamed Likud source was quoted telling the Walla news site. “It’s time we started behaving like a ruling party. Most of the party feels terrible and women left crying following the vote.”
The Friday killing of Darya Leitel, 31, marked the fifth femicide in Israel since the start of 2023.
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. Half of those murders were in the Arab community, which makes up just 21% of the population.
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.
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.