(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It never ends, the work never ends,” exclaims Minister of Welfare and Social
Services Isaac Herzog, moving aside a high stack of papers from the center of
his desk, as we sit down in his Jerusalem office. “There is just so much to get
done and it keeps on coming.”
Indeed, it has been a particularly busy
week for the Labor Party minister after news broke last Saturday that a Netanya
man, Itai Ben-Dror, had murdered his three children. Known to both welfare and
medical professionals in his neighborhood, the shocking details of the case led
to a string of accusations against the authorities for allowing yet another case
of extreme domestic violence go unchecked.
“It’s an awful tragedy, almost
unimaginable and it hits the most sensitive chords of all human beings,”
comments Herzog, acutely cognizant of the criticism leveled against his workers
for not better predicting that such a thing could happen. “Those I truly feel
sorry for are children around the country who are hearing about this. Every
child must be looking at their parents and asking could this happen to me?” In
light of the gruesome crime, Herzog immediately set up a committee. appointing
former Haifa District Court judge Haim Pizam to look into what happened and how
children at risk can be better protected.
“According to our initial
information, the steps taken by the social welfare services in Kfar Yona [where
the family was treated at a government-run center during their divorce] were
reasonable and fair,” he claims, quickly highlighting, however, that the issue
goes beyond this particular case to the lack of coordination between various
government offices responsible for such services.
This point was also
highlighted, he says, in an investigation into the murder of four-year-old Rose
Pizem by her grandfather Ronnie Ron in August 2008 that issued its findings in
April, recommending legislation that would give full access to information about
a child to all the relevant public services.
“The main block is concerns
from the Justice Ministry that it will infringe on people’s privacy and from the
Health Ministry, who are worried about protecting the rights of patients,”
explains Herzog. “We hope to reach a compromise on this before the new Knesset
session starts and then push the legislation through.
“Over the past six
years 36 children have been murdered by relatives or parents and this is a
terrible number, especially when you think of Israel as being a beacon unto the
nations. Perhaps its time that we admit to ourselves that we might not be the
chosen people we think we are; we might just be like any other people with the
same terrible phenomena and we have to learn how to deal with
While the Ben-Dror murders are clearly weighing on his mind, there
are other, much deeper issues concerning ideology, politics and the state that
have been equally as troubling for Herzog over the past few months.
crumbling peace process, the growing rift between Israel and the rest of the
world, the cracks in relations with world Jewry and intolerance of minorities
and the poor are just some of the issues he grapples with on a daily basis,
bringing him into direct conflict with his own personal views and his party’s
The construction freeze in the settlements will end in just
over a month, will Labor pull out of the government if building starts up again?
This week I toured Samaria and met with settlers.
These people are under
huge pressure and tension.
On one side they realize they are the crux of
a major international dispute, but on the other, they want tocontinue living
their lives until things are settled. A resolution must be found to this as soon
I do not want to make threats but we have made it clear that
if there is no breakthrough on this within a reasonable period, it will have a
bearing on our future in the coalition.
I do believe it will call for a
clear-cut resolution in the party in October or November.