Zuaretz: Time to make impact at UN in other ways

Chairwoman of Knesset subcommittee on women trafficking says advances on that issue are one way to raise Israel’s international profile.

sex slaves human trafficking 248 88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
sex slaves human trafficking 248 88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) would like to see Israel’s name come up more frequently in United Nations debates, but not on security related issues.
Zuaretz said Monday that she plans to raise the trafficking of women as the first topic in a series of discussions initiated by Israel in the world body. She was part of a Knesset delegation to the US earlier this month during which she discussed Israeli advances in the war against human trafficking with top UN and State Department officials.
Zuaretz, who chairs the Knesset Subcommittee Against Trafficking in Women, said she briefed both Diane Kelly, senior policy adviser in the Secretary of State’s Office for Global Women’s Issues, and Robert Orr, assistant secretary-general for policy planning in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary- General, on the need for a shelter for trafficking victims from Africa who are also refugees.
“After visiting the Saharonim facility at Kitziot Detention Center, it was evident that there is no unit that deals with African victims of trafficking and sexual violence,” Zuaretz complained. “Our current programs are mainly focused on trafficked women from Eastern Europe, and less so from the Far East, and when I realized this, I initiated a program to deal with refugee victims of trafficking.”
According to the MK, Orr told her that there was a UN global project on the subject of trafficking and that he would appreciate more information on Israel’s programs.
His interest in Israel’s efforts, she said, helped her understand the potential for Israel to become more active within the UN.
“I plan to hold a hearing at the UN initiated by Israel on trafficking in women. Orr said that Israel was almost always mentioned in the UN in connection with diplomatic and security issues, while we were not involved in social issues such as the environment and human trafficking,” Zuaretz explained.
“He told us that when we use the platform of the UN to pursue other issues, it will also help to change the perceptions of Israel,” she said. “Currently, the platform is only partially used, and unfortunately in most cases, Israel is on the front lines with the arrows pointed against us.”
Zuaretz said she planned to remain in contact with Orr, as well with Israel’s incoming ambassador to the United Nations, in order to initiate such a hearing.
“After all,” she said, “we really do have accomplishments to present.”
Despite having taken numerous steps against the influx of trafficked women, Israel still holds a problematic “two” grade on the US State Department’s list of countries in which women are trafficked. The grade indicates is that Israel isn’t taking sufficient steps to prevent the phenomenon and provide assistance to its victims.
“Despite taking numerous steps in the last year to combat the phenomenon, we have remained at the same status,” Zuaretz said.
“The Justice and Foreign ministries’ representatives in Washington were surprised to see that we remained at the same status.”
She explained that this may have been due to the transition of the Immigration Police to its standing as the Immigration Authority under the auspices of the Interior Ministry.
“Although we in practice expanded our training and awareness programs throughout numerous governmental offices, actual enforcement may have fallen between the cracks with the transfer of authority,” she said.
During her subcommittee’s final meeting before the Knesset’s summer recess, Zuaretz and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel Beiteinu) discussed the possibility of sending an official Israeli delegation to the State Department with the task of briefing US officials on steps taken by Israel to reduce the trafficking in women.
Zuaretz participated in the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program after being selected by the US Embassy in Israel on the basis of her cooperation with American authorities on women trafficking. She was joined by MKs Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), Hamed Amer (Israel Beiteinu) and Yariv Levin (Likud).
In the course of the visit, the Israeli parliamentarians heard lectures on American government and administration, met with prominent members of Congress and the State Department, visited UN headquarters in New York, and studied local government and activism in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
“My participation in the delegation brought me to the conclusion that we should work to strengthen our informal relationships with international policymakers and to frequently update them as to what is happening in Israel,” Zuaretz concluded.
“MKs can help function as spokespeople for Israel and for the Knesset. People sit overseas and get information from the media, and while it is very easy and more photogenic to be a victim and helpless, it is very hard to represent the side that defends itself. And thus we MKs have a responsibility to help show our overseas counterparts a picture of Israeli civil society.”