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For women in Israel, the pandemic has resulted in a confounding security and health crisis that has highlighted their particular vulnerability.

It almost sounds like a tasteless joke: how many committees does it take to effectively address intimate partner violence in Israel? Unfortunately, the answer is that twenty-five years and multiple committees do not suffice.

In 1995, Knesset Members and rotating Chairs of the Committee on the Status of Women, Limor Livnat and Yael Dayan, established an inquiry and conducted an official study of the issue of femicide and intimate partner violence. The conclusions of that report were not implemented. In 2017, a ministerial committee under Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, had issued an action plan to address gender-based violence, but the allocated budget of 250 million shekels was never fully approved by the Finance Ministry. The hurdle appeared to be political rivalries within the government and a lack of commitment by Erdan. The following year, Israel experienced its own “Me Too” movement and calls for a new parliamentary inquiry committee rose yet again. However, these efforts were led by the then Chairperson of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Knesset Member Aida Toma-Souleiman, a Palestinian-Israeli and member of the opposition party, The Joint List. The governing coalition chose to oppose this initiative simply because it was proposed by the opposition.

Palestinian-Israeli women led a “16 Days of Activism” campaign in November of 2019 to address gender-based violence in the Palestinian-citizens of Israel community. Their efforts were a culmination of decades-long grassroots activism, and increased awareness due to gender-based violence testimonies on social media platforms. The attention these political actions received galvanized Palestinian-Israeli women and empowered them to continue to demand their right to personal security. Contrary to all known research and data, femicide among Palestinian-Israelis is often publicly framed as separate and different from femicide in the Jewish population. As a result, Palestinian-Israeli women are less likely to benefit from any government led GBV initiatives. 

Since March 2020, the number of women murdered in Israel has remained in the double digits, and the COVID-19 shut-down has resulted in a 40 percent increase in reported cases of gender-based violence. For women in Israel, the pandemic has resulted in a confounding security and health crisis that has highlighted their particular vulnerability. In May 2020 women activists organized protests calling for the establishment of a ministerial committee on gender-based violence and implementation of the action plan from the Erdan committee in 2017, as well as the full allocation of funding. It is not entirely clear who in the bloated Israeli government will carry the mantle on this matter. The most likely candidate is the Minister of Social Welfare Orly Levi-Abekasis, one of the few women ministers.

Despite being in elected office since the early 1990s, attending gender-based violence committee hearings, and visiting shelters, Prime Minister Netanyahu aka ‘Mr. Security’ continues to feign ignorance on the matter of femicide in Israel. The many iterations of the various gender-based violence committees have consistently produced nearly identical findings and recommendations, and yet in a quarter of a century, Israeli leadership has yet to commit to enacting intervention and mitigation methods to address gender-based violence. The information is available; however the political expediency and commitment remains absent.

The Israeli government prioritizes security arrangements when they benefit men and view protecting women’s lives as a chore that can be delayed indefinitely.

This blog series is part of the Wilson Center series exploring the many facets of gender-based violence around the world, in parallel with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence that runs from November 25 – December 10, 2020.

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About the Author

Noa Balf

Noa Balf

Department of Government and Politics, PhD The Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies University of Maryland-College Park
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