Cabinet okays bill to monitor domestic abusers, months after tanking similar bill

Police minister Ben Gvir, citing men’s rights, had sought preconditions for tracking offenders; new version of bill lets judges bypass those conditions in urgent cases

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir holds a meeting at his ministry offices in Jerusalem, June 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir holds a meeting at his ministry offices in Jerusalem, June 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Three months after the coalition torpedoed a bill initiated by the previous government that would have mandated an electronic monitoring system to enforce restraining orders issued against domestic abusers, a modified but similar version was approved by the cabinet on Sunday.

The new version of the bill – which was presented by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Minister for the Advancement of the Status of Women May Golan – would require more preconditions for authorizing electronic tagging than the previous version that was narrowly voted down in the Knesset in March.

Ben Gvir had opposed the previous government’s bill and promised to bring a more “balanced” version that addressed false accusations against men, and said that the latest draft achieved his aims.

In a statement Saturday, Ben Gvir said the bill was “very important” and would “balance the crucial need to battle domestic violence and prevent violence with our duty to defend against false accusations and complaints and preserve the freedom of innocents.”

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 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 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.

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

But crucially, the latest version includes an exception to those rules: If a judge is convinced a case is urgent, they are authorized to order electronic tagging even if none of the conditions are met, until the potential abuser’s dangerousness is assessed.

That would appear to make Ben Gvir’s version similar to the previous government’s original bill, which would have introduced the use of geolocation technology to ensure that an offender regarded by a judge as dangerous does not come within a distance specified by a restraining order.

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. Experts have hailed the bill as life-saving.

But the current government appeared reluctant to advance a bill authored by its political opponents, and in March, the legislation fell 54-53 at its preliminary reading in the Knesset.

Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks from the podium, right, and opposition members shout at him from the side, in the Knesset, on March 22, 2023. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

After that vote, lawmakers sparred verbally, leading to several being removed from the plenum. Some 20 opposition MKs surrounded Ben Gvir as he stepped down from the rostrum, chanting against him along with others in the aisles in a spectacle chaotic even by the Knesset’s often indecorous standards.

According to the Israel Women’s Network nonprofit, there have been 17 cases of femicide so far this year.

That appears on track to far surpass the rate for 2022, in which the Israel Observatory on Femicide said 24 women were “murdered because they were women.” That in itself had been 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.

Lawmaker Limor Son Har Melech, who belongs to Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party, said electronic monitoring is “populist” and does not provide “a real answer” to violence against women, in a Sunday interview with Army Radio. She also alleged, without data, that most domestic violence murders occur without prior police complaints.

Despite the similarities of the past government’s bill and Ben Gvir’s, Son Har Melech said that Ben Gvir’s version is much “healthier,” correcting a prior effort that “gave unlimited power to women.”

“Every mom has to worry about her son” under such a regime, she added.

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.

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