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Cablegate: Knesset Subcomittee On Combating Trafficking in Women


DE RUEHTV #1578/01 2050407
P 230407Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Chairperson Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) convened July 2 the
Knesset subcommittee on Trafficking in Women for its annual hearing
on the findings of the State Department's Trafficking in Persons
(TIP) Report for 2007. Discussion focused on new developments in
trafficking in women: specifically NGO reports that Israel is a
source country and that internal trafficking constitutes a
phenomenon. While the hearing was in agreement that the TIP report
was fair and balanced, the session heard a call from the State
Attorney's office for further verification of the findings in regard
to internal trafficking and Israel's source country status.
Chairperson Gal-On expressed frustration with the lack of progress
on forced labor, which was not within the committee's purview. She
urged new thinking by the GOI and legislative initiatives by the
committee to combat the changing aspects of trafficking in women in

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2. (SBU) The subcommittee meets regularly throughout the year,
often inviting key government officials to testify on
anti-trafficking initiatives. Ahead of the session on the TIP
report, Justice Ministry Director-General Moshe Shilo was invited to
address the committee on the work of the inter-ministerial committee
that he heads. Other participants included: committee member MK
Maria Solodkin (Kadima); representatives of the Israel Police, the
Immigration Authority, representatives of Israel government
agencies; and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Director
General Shilo noted that the TIP report is an important tool in
combating trafficking in persons but that there are other important
tools that Israel should use, including international agreements,
noting that the GOI recently ratified the 2000 UN Protocol on June
19, 2008. Shilo conceded that while Israel had improved its record
on combating trafficking in women, this was not the case in regard
to the problems of foreign workers and forced labor. "More must be
done on enforcement regarding trafficking for labor purposes, and we
are working with the Israel Police and the State Attorney's office
on this," Shilo said.

3. (SBU) The Director General also commented on the issue of the
lack of testimony by women victims of trafficking in the Tel Aviv
shelter, saying that this was possibly aggravated by the backlog in
the courts. He was responding to a comment by Anat Hulata of the
State Attorney's office, who noted that none of the 32 inmates of
the Tel Aviv shelter had agreed to testify. Ada Pliel Trosman of the
Welfare Ministry responded that this was the result of a policy that
gave the women access to the shelter and to all benefits from the
GOI regardless of whether they testified or not.

4. (SBU) MK Marina Solodkin spoke briefly but forcefully on what
she called "the new phase" of trafficking Israel: a phase of
organized crime. Trafficking, Solodkin affirmed, was now part of a
much bigger picture and needed to be treated accordingly. In this
connection she also flagged the Interior Ministry decision to waive
the visa requirement for Russian nationals, which will go into
effect in late September.

5. (SBU) The TIP Report's mention of internal trafficking and Israel
as a source country for trafficked women was discussed by Anat
Hulata, the State Attorney's Office representative. She took issue
with the State Department report on both matters. "We do not
recognize the phenomenon of internal trafficking as referred to in
the report, and we do not have reports of it from the various bodies
and agencies which provide us with information and data," she said.
Regarding NGO reports of Israel's status as a "source country" for
trafficked women, Hulata said the State Attorney's office only knew
of isolated cases and did not have evidence that constituted a
phenomenon. While the hearing was almost entirely devoted to the
report on Israel, criticism was voiced of the Tier 1 placing of
countries that have legalized prostitution. Idit Harel Shemesh of
the Toda'a Institute, an NGO which works extensively with
international NGOs, expressed her frustration by labeling the report
"disappointing and irrelevant" for its Tier 1 placing of Holland and
Germany. She was not challenged by any other speaker on her blurring
of the lines between trafficking and prostitution.

6. (SBU) MK Gal-On called on the Israel Police representative, Chief
Inspector Yael Aharonovitch, to report to the committee, and
specifically requested statistics on indictments and arrests.
Aharonovitch reported a decline in numbers on both counts: 76
arrests on charges of trafficking in women in 2007 as compared with
83 in 2006. Indictments for the same period were down by 41
percent. Aharonovitch said stepped-up enforcement accounted for the
decline in arrests and indictments, but noted a proliferation in the
operation of brothels and an increase in the number of cases of
pimping and prostitution files, with 250 new cases in 2007 as
compared with 200 in 2006. Superintendent David Peretz, who heads
the Investigations Division of the Immigration Authority, asked to

report on the work of his department in regard to foreign workers,
but Chairperson Gal-On regretted that it was not within the purview
of her committee and asked that he do so before the Knesset
Committee on the problem of Foreign Workers.

7. (SBU) Summing up the hearing, and comments on the TIP report,
Gal-On expressed some personal frustration with the disparity
between Israel's record on combating trafficking in women and its
enforcement regarding forced labor and foreign workers. "It is
possible," she ventured, "that were it not for the forced labor
issue" we would be in Tier 1 ..." At the same time, Gal-On
acknowledged that there are new developments to confront: "Israel
for the first time figures as a source of trafficked women. This is
a new development...and the NGOs fighting trafficking in persons
report classic sexual slavery. This requires more indictments and
the TIP report raises the need for some new thinking by the GOI. We
will have to give thought to the question of incriminating clients
of the sex industry and the issue of sex service advertising and we
will be doing that in the next parliamentary session.

8. (U) In conversation after the hearing, we asked Gal-On why last
year's joint session to review the TIP report, which had been held
with the Committee on Foreign Workers, was not repeated this year to
facilitate discussion of the full TIP report. Gal-On said she had
approached the Committee chairperson, Ran Cohen (Meretz), to suggest
that they hold a joint session that she would chair but he had
declined. "We are from the same political party but we approach
trafficking from wholly different perspectives," Gal-On said. "The
committee on Foreign Workers is interested solely in the economic
aspects of the issue. I approach it in terms of human rights."
(Comment: the two committees enjoy a different status: As a
subcommittee, Gal-On's committee has a lesser status and inferior
leverage in various aspects of parliamentary activity. A merging of
the two committees would redress this imbalance and possibly benefit
the work of the Committee on Foreign Workers in the field of
combating trafficking in persons. End Comment.


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