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Third periodic report of Israel (continued)
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.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 and CRP.2/Add.7)
1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, the delegation of Israel took places at the Committee table.
Articles 7 to 9
13. Ms. Tavares da Silva said that information provided to the Committee had indicated that the Citizenship and Entry Law of 2003 had hampered family reunification in the case of Israelis married to Palestinians living in the occupied territories, forcing many women to live in an illegal situation. The Law had apparently been recently extended and had been amended to allow only persons above a certain age to apply for family reunification, a provision that would mean long delays for persons married, as was customary, at younger ages. Since it was a matter of human rights and dignity to live in a secure family setting with all attendant benefits, the Government should reconsider the issue, which ought to be a part of the peace process.
14. Ms. Coker-Appiah said that the Citizenship and Entry Law affected particularly Palestinian Arab women citizens with non-Israeli spouses, impinging on the family’s economic livelihood and leading to family violence. What was Israel doing to families in such situations? She would like statistics on the Palestinian Israeli women who had lost their social benefits when they had moved to the occupied territories to rejoin their spouses or who had been unable to obtain residence for their spouses in Israel.
16. Ms. Matias (Israel) said that data specifically on Arab and Palestinian women in Israel would be compiled and submitted later to the Committee.
17. Ms. Briskman Gomelski (Israel) observed that a State had the right to control entry into its territory, especially during times of armed conflict. As a security response to scores of murderous suicide bombings costing thousands of Israeli lives, which had been perpetrated with the growing involvement or assistance of Palestinians originally from Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip but resident at the time in Israel pursuant to family unification procedures, the Government had in 2002 temporarily stopped granting Palestinians legal status in Israel, even on the grounds of family unification. In 2003, the Citizenship and Entry Law had been enacted as a temporary measure to limit the granting of Israeli citizenship or residence permits to residents of the Palestinian territories, and it had been extended until the end of August 2005. The Law did not affect the status of any person retroactively. It currently allowed entry into Israel for purposes of medical treatment or employment or on other temporary grounds for a total of six months and allowed a minor up to the age of 12 to join a parent lawfully residing in Israel. The Supreme Court was scrutinizing the constitutionality of the Law in several pending cases and was awaiting the adoption of envisioned changes before ruling on it. A planned amendment to the Law would make further exceptions in the case of persons posing a lower security risk: it would allow new requests for family unification from resident men over the age of 35 and women over 25 married to an Israeli spouse, thus reducing those excluded by about 30 per cent, and would allow the granting of temporary permits to their children over 12. The amendment would also lift the six-month limit on permits for employment or medical reasons. If the peace process indeed advanced, the Law might be further liberalized. She knew of no data on women actually affected by the Law but would send them subsequently if any were available.
18. In her view, although the matter had not been addressed by the courts, the setting of quotas as a temporary special measure did not contradict Israeli law. She was unaware of any bills on the matter.
19. Ms. Tene (Israel) said that the main reason that so few Arab women served in the Knesset was that the Arab parties placed them so low on their lists of candidates that it was unrealistic to believe they could be elected. The need to have more women participating in political negotiations, in particular peace negotiations, was a majority view confirmed in a recent Israeli public opinion survey, and to that end a new bill had been introduced with a target of reaching 25 per cent participation by women. She noted that one religious party had reserved a Knesset seat for a woman. Efforts to increase the number of female ambassadors were under way in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She noted that nearly half of the candidates in courses to prepare for positions in the Ministry were women and that of the existing posts more than half in the administrative wing were held by women. The position of local adviser on the status of women was a non-elective post that could be held only by a woman.
20. Ms. Matias (Israel) said that the idea raised by members of the Committee of using quotas as a tool for eliminating discrimination against women was most interesting and would be reported back to her Government. She noted that a new bill that had just passed its first reading sought to provide considerable extra funding to political parties whose membership included at least 30 per cent women and that managed to elect female representatives to the Knesset. The fact that Arab women were poorly represented in the Knesset was undeniable but the Government could not dictate how parties should rank their candidates on lists or how the voters should vote.
Articles 10 to 14
21. Ms. Pimentel noted with regard to article 10 on education that there were undisputed differences in the achievement levels of Jewish and Arab students and that more money was being spent on Jewish students. She requested more information on the educational budget and services for Arabs and on measures taken by the Government to reduce the high dropout rate for Arab girls, especially among Bedouins. She also asked why so few Arab students passed the university entrance exams, even though they had managed to pass the secondary school completion examinations. Finally, she requested more information on what was being done to eradicate gender stereotypes in school books used by Arabs.
25. Ms. Gabr noted that 20 per cent of Israel’s population, within the legal frontiers, was Arab and yet the portion of the budget devoted to the provision of government services to Arabs was considerably smaller. She requested additional information on the impact of the 1991 law on migrant workers on Arab migrant workers, especially women. Women needed training and employment in order to benefit from the Israeli social services. There had been cutbacks in employment in the textile sector recently, and those affected needed training so as to be able to find work in other sectors. She also asked what projects had been planned or set up to assist women in poverty, especially Arab women.
26. Ms. Shin noted, with regard to article 12 on health, that despite the commendable national health-care system in Israel, which covered all women, there were nevertheless disparities in health indicators between Jews and non-Jews. She asked what was being done to close that gap. Reports had reached the Committee of Palestinian women being unable to reach hospitals in time for healthy delivery of their babies owing to long delays at checkpoints. She asked why checkpoints were not instructed to expedite the passage of ambulances in such cases.
28. Ms. Patten noted, with regard to articles 13 and 14, that States parties had an obligation to ensure equal access for men and women to financial credit. It would appear that Arab and Bedouin women still faced barriers in that regard. She asked what sorts of microcredit and other programmes had been established to encourage entrepreneurship among minority women. She also requested more information on measures to monitor the implementation of laws on equal opportunity for women in employment in the public and private sectors and to monitor the implementation of regulations on maternity leave. Given the reports reaching the Committee about the precarious economic situation of Bedouin women, recent information about Government efforts to relocate Bedouin communities into larger villages, which apparently served to free land for Jewish settlements, was most disturbing.
32. Ms. Vinnik (Israel) said that in 2001 the Government had launched a sweeping programme, to be implemented in stages through 2005, aimed at ensuring equal educational opportunities for all and bridging educational gaps through affirmative-action initiatives. The programme involved a change in the budget system to provide schools with resources on a differential basis, which meant that each school would receive a budget amount per student based on a socio-economic breakdown. The effect would be to increase the budget for schools with students from low economic backgrounds. In particular, there were increased appropriations for education for Arabic-speakers, including teacher training and provision for scholastic advisers and other support personnel, who would, among other things, encourage girls to remain in school and choose professional careers. Additional money had also been appropriated to build more school space to accommodate kindergarten classes.
33. The new education programme established a core curriculum, with testing to ensure that students could meet certain basic learning standards, but within that framework schools would be given more self-management capacity to make individual decisions according to their specific needs. A longer school day had been mandated by law, and priority was being given to its implementation in neighbourhoods needing special attention, beginning with the elementary schools. The new programme had already resulted in steady rises in scholastic achievement and lower drop-out levels. Indeed, rates of attendance and achievement of a matriculation certificate were higher among girls than boys overall, and the gap between the rates for Arab and Jewish girls was narrowing.
Articles 15 and 16
38. Ms. Gnacadja , noting that the rate of approval of petitions for underage marriages was extremely high, asked whether the 1998 amendment to the marriage-age law had had the effect of broadening or narrowing the grounds for approval of underage marriages. Second, in view of the legislation and government policy preventing the entry of nationals of other Arab countries or Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, even those who were married to Israeli citizens, she would like to know what measures the Government intended to take to make family reunification and a normal marital life possible. Third, given the parallel jurisdictions of family courts and religious courts in most personal status matters, she wondered on what basis it was decided which courts had jurisdiction and whether women were given a choice between secular and religious law. Curiously, although marriage and divorce per se were under the jurisdiction of the religious courts, approvals for underage marriages were handled by the family courts, and she wondered how the two jurisdictions dovetailed.
The meeting rose at 5.20 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.