Netanyahu calls domestic violence ‘terrorism,’ vows to step up punishment

Ministerial committee resolves to pass law forcing abusers to wear tracking bracelets; PM says current systems ‘paralyzed,’ abusive men should be ‘punched in the face’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset, November 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset, November 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he considers violence against women a form of terrorism and vowed to allocate funds to fight it, a day after widespread protests against government inaction on the matter. A new committee on the matter resolved to promote a law forcing abusers to wear tracking bracelets to ensure they don’t violate restraining orders.

Some 30,000 demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Tuesday evening to protest what they say is authorities’ failure to stem a sharp increase in domestic violence.

The protest was the culmination of a day of action that saw thousands of women go on strike and participate in rallies across the country. Intersections throughout Israel were blocked Tuesday morning as women went on strike to protest the deaths of 24 women killed since the start of the year by a partner, family member, or someone known to them.

At the start of a discussion at a new ministerial Knesset committee dedicated to combating domestic violence, Netanyahu said, “I view violence against women as terrorism, unequivocally.

“You don’t combat terrorism just by taking care of the victim,” he said. “Terror victims must be taken care of, but nobody would dare think we would combat terrorism without dealing with the terrorists.”

Thousands rally at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square as part of a nationwide strike protesting the violence against women, December 4, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

He said that current mechanisms for punishing abusive men were “paralyzed,” and added that data on the subject was “very, very problematic.”

“I understand that there are more allocations than I thought, but they are not being used. When an allocation isn’t used, it’s as if it doesn’t exist,” said Netanyahu, who chairs the committee, and vowed to allocate money as needed.

“We need to help abused women on the one hand, and on the other hand punch these abusive men or abusive husbands in the face,” he added. “Both have to come together.”

The prime minister said he would set goals on the matter and convene the ministerial committee every two weeks.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called domestic violence “a grave matter” during the discussion and stressed “our duty to fight it.”

Women shout slogans and holding signs at Safra Square in Jerusalem as they protest against violence against women, December 4, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“I have prepared a multi-year plan to bolster the battle, give police and welfare authorities tools and step up punishments,” he added. “As far as I’m concerned, the order to police has been that the issue is a top priority.”

Among the committee’s conclusions was to quickly promote legislation that would force abusive men who have been served a restraining order to wear an electronic bracelet enabling authorities to track them to ensure they don’t violate court conditions for their release.

“Women should be protected and feel safe, rather than being afraid of violence by those who abused them,” said Erdan, who formulated the law along with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

“Use of the tracking bracelet will enable quick and effective response to protect domestic violence victims at all times, and primarily will give them the freedom they deserve,” he said.

“It is not the victims who need to hide — the criminal abusers need to be kept away,” Shaked said. “That is the purpose of our proposed bill. Using the new technology we will be able to turn the tables and liberate the women from the violent grip.”

Organizers called the strike last week in the wake of the murders of two teen girls, whose deaths brought the number of women killed in the last year in domestic violence-related incidents to 24, the highest in years.

Yara Ayoub, 16, from the Galilee village of Jish, left, and Sylvana Tsegai, 13, who was found dead Tel Aviv. Both were found murdered on November 26, 2018. (Hadashot screen capture, courtesy)

Hundreds of institutions, municipalities, schools, and organizations allowed their employees to strike, and the government’s civil service commissioner also made concessions to allow participation in the labor action.

At 10 a.m., a 24-minute period of silence was observed in memory of the 24 women.

The protests capped a week of smaller demonstrations after the two teen girls were found killed on November 26.

On Monday, the opposition’s Zionist Union brought a no-confidence motion condemning the government failure to curb the violence. Coalition members boycotted the discussion and vote. A no-confidence motion needs at least 61 supporters to pass.

At a visit to a women’s shelter on November 25, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, said they were “unsettled” by domestic violence.

Netanyahu later told ministers he was surprised to learn that “almost nothing” was done to domestic abusers. He said the uptick in violence against women in Israel in recent years was “a criminal phenomenon” and called for stricter enforcement.

The opposition floated the proposal for a commission of inquiry into violence against women after the government failed to deliver a plan to address the problem, as it had promised to do several weeks ago.

The prime minister said he voted against the proposal because it was presented by opposition lawmakers.

Naomi Lanzkron contributed to this report.

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