Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara meet with battered women at a shelter in Jerusalem on International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that the government will begin to take steps to confront violence in the Israeli family, and in particular the issue of domestic violence against women.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara met with victims of domestic violence at a battered women’s shelter in Jerusalem on Sunday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

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During that visit, the Netanyahus held an “open conversation” with women at the shelter, his spokesperson said, listening to the women’s stories and offering them support.

“The prime minister said the phenomenon must be dealt with severely and added that he intended to take up the issue together with the Cabinet,” said his spokesperson.

Speaking at the start of the weekly government cabinet meeting, Netanyahu later said he would establish and chair a ministerial committee on the fight against violence in the family.

“I would like to tell you that I have just come from an unsettling visit – there is no other word – which my wife and I held at a shelter for battered women in Jerusalem,” he told the cabinet.

“Violence against women is an abhorrent phenomenon. It is a crime.

“Of course we are against violence in general, but within this category there are special things.

“The special thing, of course, is that it is necessary to care for the women, the children and the families, and we are doing much, and much more needs to be done.

“But I discovered, as I spoke with these women, something that astounded me, woman after woman after woman. I discovered that we are making great efforts, and there will be even greater efforts, to care for these women, at shelters and further on.

“We must care for them, and afterwards as well, because the threat has not been lifted and neither has the challenge.

“But I discovered that we are hardly doing anything against those who are responsible for this crime. It is as if we were not dealing with terrorism, and this is terrorism in every respect, and you do not care for terrorists.

“I intend not only to offer them psychological rehabilitation; most of them are uninterested. If we would try to treat terrorists with psychological rehabilitation, this is one approach. But first there must be enforcement, deterrence [and] punishment.

“I was amazed to discover that there are women there whose husbands came with knives and nothing has been done, and other husbands come and shoot inside the house and nothing has been done to them, and three brothers imprisoned their sister, this terror, for three years in a room, and she was never allowed out even once, a room with bars, they kept her baby away from her, and nothing was done to them.

“Something is missing here. I would like to formulate a plan to deal not only with the women who have been hurt, but with their attackers.

“First, as Herzl’s great partner Nordau said, about ethics, first enforcement and punishment and then ethics.

“Here there is no enforcement, no punishment, no ethics and no justice. There is only the continuing fear and trauma that is difficult to describe. You see this with the women too. You also see it with the young, adorable children that my wife and I visited today. This is going to change,” Netanyahu vowed.

“I request the cooperation of all ministers and MKs in bringing about a deep and fundamental change here,” he said.

“We need to be the leading state in the world on this matter, just as we are the leading state in the world in the fight against terrorism.”

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