Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Uriel Sinai/Pool
Israel is a western, liberal democracy, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting. Netanyahu's comments came
following a Friday night Channel 2
report that showed an eight-year old modern orthodox girl afraid to walk
meters to school because of harassment from some haredim because of her
"In liberal, western democracies the public space is open
and secure for everyone -- men and women alike. There is no place here
for any harassment or discrimination," the prime minister said.
Metzger: Haredim have no right to force segregation on bus
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Netanyahu said he spoke to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch
on Saturday night about the harassment of women by extremist haredim
(ultra-Orthodox), and he was briefed on actions that halve already been
taken and will be taken to arrest and act against those who spit, raise
their hand, or harass women.
The prime minister said he also
asked the government ministries and municipal authorities to act to
remove signs calling for gender segregation of sidewalls. "This has no
room in a free western democracy," he said.
Netanyahu said the
government will use all the legal tools at its disposal to combat the
exclusion of women in the public sphere, but said this was not only a
legal issue, rather also a societal one. "This is an issue of public and
societal norms, and therefore I call on all public leaders and
spiritual leaders to work against this phenomenon."
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday morning told Israel Radio that the haredi
extremists who commit violence against women and girls belong behind
branded the haredim involved as "psychopaths and villains," during the interview. He added that Interior Minister Eli Yishai
should order the mayor of Beit Shemesh to immediately remove the signs
prohibiting women from walking on certain parts of the sidewalk in haredi neighborhoods.
Steinitz emphasized that he was referring to small groups of extremists and not the entire haredi sector.
Also commenting on the issue, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said Sunday that haredi extremism was a "huge" problem.
Earlier in the day she opined that we should "live and let live."
an interview with Army Radio, Livnat, who leads the Interministerial
Committee on the Status of Women, said that in entirely haredi cities,
segregation on public transport should be allowed, rather than forced."
She said that when it comes to haredi cities, where all residents are haredim, we must not be "patronizing."
"I don't think we should tell them how to live," Livnat declared. "We should live and let live. "
we are speaking about a mixed city, however, or a city where there are
haredim or religious people who oppose segregation, we must fight the
phenomenon," she added. Ruth Eglash and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.