Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS
Third periodic report of Israel
The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention (continued)
Third periodic report of Israel (CEDAW/C/ISR/3; CEDAW/PSWG/2005/II/CRP.1/Add.7, CEDAW/PSWG/2005/II/CRP.2/Add.7)
1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, the representatives of Israel took places at the Committee table .
2. The Chairperson said that the Israeli Government had submitted an updated report too late for translation in time for the current session; therefore the Committee would base its discussion on the third periodic report contained in document CEDAW/C/ISR/3. She drew attention to an error on the cover page of the responses to the list of issues, in document CEDAW/PSWG/2005/II/CRP.2/Add.7: the title of the report was the third periodic report, not the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports. A corrigendum would be published.
3. Ms. Matias (Israel) said that the third periodic report and its updates were the outcome of a broad collaborative effort carried out by various Israeli ministries and bodies, to parts of which NGOs had contributed. The third periodic report elaborated in detail on a broad range of issues relevant to the advancement of women. The status of women in Israel was regularly on the agenda of all Government offices. Indeed, equality had been enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, and an Equal Rights for Women Law had been in existence since 1951. Although the Government was always moving forward, much remained to be done. When the Ministries did not initiate actions on their own, the Israeli public and NGOs reminded them of the issues. Israeli society was open and dynamic, with an active media and a court system that was working to remedy wrongs. Israel’s accession to the Convention, accompanied by the obligation to submit reports to the Committee, added an important layer to Israel’s ongoing efforts in the area of women’s rights.
4. Israel had been plagued by terrorist attacks for four years, and Israeli women lived in daily dread of the next one. It was impossible to describe what it was like constantly to fear for the lives of one’s children. Change, however, was in the air. The Palestinians had elected a new leader who had declared his commitment to the peace process, and, in an attempt to break the stalemate, Israel had unilaterally decided to disengage from Gaza and the West Bank. It was hoped that the new Palestinian leadership would provide for Palestinian women the equality, peace and freedom they deserved and that Palestinian and Israeli women alike would experience happiness. Women had participated in the governance of Israel since its founding. They were a vibrant, lively, vocal and integral part of every aspect of Israeli society and shaped that society as much as did men. Although Israeli society was relatively progressive with regard to equality issues, more must be done for all women of Israel, but especially for women from the more vulnerable sectors of society. Israel had carefully studied the Committee’s concluding comments on its combined initial and second reports and had taken measures to advance the promotion of women accordingly. In many areas, dramatic improvements had taken place. Her delegation looked forward to discussing those changes with the Committee.
28. Ms. Shin, ...
29. In its responses to the Committee’s list of issues and questions, Israel had explained repeatedly that the Convention applied only in its territory, not in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. She was doubtful about that justification, which had not been invoked in Israel’s 1997 report, and pointed out that the actions of the Israeli forces affected every aspect of the lives of Palestinian women in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. She hoped that Israel would change its position.
43. Ms. Matias (Israel) ...
45. As for the applicability of the Convention in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — a question that arose in every human rights treaty body — she had with her a legal brief that she could either read out or distribute to Committee members, at the Chairperson’s discretion. There were a number of aspects to consider. From a legal perspective, Israel’s position was that the jurisdiction of the Convention extended to Israel only and not to other territories, even if they were temporarily under its control. In any case, issues relating to health, education and employment and other areas covered by the Convention were now under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, which was given $1 billion every year by the international community to deal with them. Thus, because both the health and education sectors were controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli authorities had been powerless to stop the Palestinians from issuing school textbooks with illustrations of children dressed up as terrorists and had been unable to help build a much-needed hospital in the Gaza Strip following World Bank reports that the funds designated for that purpose were being diverted by corrupt members of the Palestinian Authority during the previous administration.
46. Israel was not shying away from its responsibilities in matters that came under its control, for example, the situation at border crossings, which affected many Palestinian women. She was currently working with representatives of the World Bank, and of the Palestinians, to improve that situation; however, the reality was that whenever restrictions were relaxed, terrorist incidents increased. Ultimately, the quality of life for the Palestinians would be vastly improved by the disengagement process initiated by the Israeli Prime Minister, under which all Israelis were being evacuated from the Gaza Strip, and by the good will of the new Palestinian leadership, which seemed intent on using international funding for its intended purposes.
47. She referred Committee members to her country’s third periodic report and the responses given to the list of issues, and to the additional information submitted by Israel in June 2005. There were no set or straightforward answers to many of those issues, which the delegation hoped would be addressed in the course of its dialogue with the Committee.
49. The Chairperson invited Committee members to pose questions on articles 1 to 6.
Articles 1 to 6
50. Ms. Dairiam welcomed the delegation’s statement that it had not relinquished all its responsibilities in the occupied Palestinian territories. That statement, however, seemed to be in direct contradiction with paragraph 5 of the response to question 1 of the list of issues, alleging that the law of armed conflict was the only applicable regime in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Even if Israel had transferred jurisdiction over health, education and other Convention-related matters to the Palestinian Authority, it — and not the Palestinian Authority — was a State party to the Convention, and, as such, was answerable for the situation in the Palestinian territories; the Committee would not be engaging in a dialogue with the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, she would be grateful for information on how the Israeli Government monitored the implementation of the Convention in the occupied territories. Was assistance provided to pregnant Palestinian women forced to wait on long lines at border checkpoints? Were they taken to hospitals, if necessary, and were efforts made to prevent unsafe deliveries?
51. Mr. Flinterman ...
53. Lastly, he, too, was concerned about the applicability of the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territories. He expressed regret that the views of the Israeli Government in that regard were diametrically opposed to those of the Committee, other treaty bodies and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice issued one year earlier.
54. Ms. Coker-Appiah cautioned that legislation and policy alone would not be effective without the backing of sufficient resources. She noted that, of the 49 shelters available to female victims of violence, only two were designated for Arab women. Why had the only State-funded shelter for Palestinian girls been closed down, leaving them no alternative but to live on the street or be imprisoned? What provisions had been made for them? Unlike the statistics in other areas, the data on sexual violence was not disaggregated by ethnicity. How did Israel ensure that both Jewish and Arab female crime victims were provided with adequate treatment and support? In future, all statistics provided by the State party should be disaggregated by sex, ethnicity and religion.
60. Ms. Morvai said that it was obvious from the statistics provided in the report that Palestinian women were regarded as second-class citizens. Israeli judges, members of Parliament and company directors far outnumbered their Palestinian counterparts. Palestinian women living in illegal villages had their houses demolished, their drinking water and electricity supplies cut off.
61. While security concerns were the justification for the ill-treatment of Palestinians without Israeli citizenship, she wondered how the Israeli Government could justify such discrimination against those Palestinians in possession of Israeli citizenship, who accounted for 20 per cent of the national population. How could there be de facto equality among all citizens when Israel viewed itself as a Jewish State? She asked whether Palestinian women were generally regarded as not good enough to play an equal role in society and, in that connection, stressed that her own experiences suggested otherwise.
62. Ms. Arocha Domínguez said that the Israeli Government’s position that the Convention did not apply in the occupied territories was regrettable. The Committee and other human rights treaty monitoring bodies did not share that view and had, on various occasions, expressed their concern at Israel’s failure to implement the relevant instruments in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Indeed, during the forty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the Secretary-General of the United Nations had submitted a report which provided details of the deterioration in the situation of Palestinian women between 2000 and 2004.
63. It was unfortunate that the Israeli delegation had referred to Palestine only in the context of terrorism. There had been no mention of the suffering experienced by Palestinian women residing in the occupied territories, whose homes were routinely destroyed and whose movements were severely restricted. She stressed that the occupation was not a temporary situation but rather a large-scale operation that had affected the lives of more than two generations of women.
67. Ms. Matias (Israel) agreed that Palestinian women did not deserve to be regarded as second-class citizens, but pointed out that the responsibility for their well-being and empowerment lay with the Palestinian Authority, which had established its own political and social structures and had assumed control of all aspects of life in the Palestinian territories. Israel had certain responsibilities under humanitarian law, particularly in respect of incidents in border zones that might affect Palestinians, and it stood ready to fulfil its commitments in that regard.
68. The Israeli Government simply did not have data on the situation of women in Palestine. But it had spent several months drafting the third periodic report and gathering additional, updated information on the situation in Israel. She was therefore deeply disappointed and disheartened to see that the discussion of the report had taken a political turn.
69. Although the Israeli Government was sensitive to the plight of Palestinian women, there was little it could do to improve their situation. In accordance with the new disengagement initiative, Israel was evacuating its citizens from the Gaza Strip and it would not be appropriate to interfere in areas that were now governed by the Palestinian Authority. While the international community, including the International Court of Justice, had repeatedly called on Israel to implement the provisions of various human rights treaties, it was very difficult to appreciate the full complexity of the situation on the ground. In that connection, she would circulate a paper detailing her country’s official legal position. If Israel had not been the victim of terrorism, none of the political questions relating to Palestine raised by the Committee and the wider international community would need to be answered because the situation would be totally different.
78. Ms. Briskman Gomelski (Israel) said that residents of the Palestinian territories who required urgent medical attention were permitted to pass through checkpoints, subject to the approval of the checkpoint commander, who was responsible for assessing the severity of the medical problem. It should be recalled that, in the past, bombs had been concealed in ambulances, and therefore the medical needs of patients had to be weighed against the need to ensure security. A number of cases concerning access to medical care had been brought before the Supreme Court by residents of the Palestinian territories.
The meeting rose at 1 p.m.
This record is subject to correction.
Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Chief, Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza.
Any corrections to the record of the meetings of this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.