Benjamin Netanyahu issues rare rebukes of far-right ally

“In the country that I will lead, there will be no situation where a person, whether he is LGBT, Arab or ultra-Orthodox or any other person, will enter a hotel and not receive service, enter [a doctor’s office] and not receive service,” he said.


The controversy came days after the Yediot Ahronot daily reported that another member of the Religious Zionism alliance, the far-right Noam faction, once compiled a list of LGBTQ journalists and claimed the “LGBT media” amounted to a lobby of “incomparable strength”.

Sunday’s uproar prompted Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, to express his own concerns. The president is a largely figurehead position who is meant to serve as a moral compass and unifying force for the country.

“A situation in which Israeli citizens feel threatened due to their identity or faith undermines the basic democratic and moral values of the State of Israel,” Herzog said. “The racist statements heard in recent days against the LGBT community and in general against different sectors and publics – worry and disturb me a lot.”

It was the latest sign of trouble for Netanyahu’s emerging coalition, which is dominated by far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners pushing for dramatic changes that could alienate large swaths of the Israeli public, raise the risk of conflict with the Palestinians and put Israel on a collision course with some of its closest supporters, including the United States and the Jewish American community.

The outgoing government took several small steps to advance LGBTQ rights, including rescinding a ban on blood donations by gay men, streamlining access to gender reassignment surgery and taking a clear stand against “conversion therapy,” the scientifically discredited practice of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations.

The incoming government includes two ultra-Orthodox parties that do not allow female candidates, and Religious Zionism, an umbrella movement whose leaders are vocally homophobic.

Members of the LGBTQ community serve openly in Israel’s military and parliament, and many popular artists and entertainers as well as several former government ministers are openly gay. But leaders of the LGBTQ community say Israel has a long way to go to promote equality.

Netanyahu and his religious and nationalist parties captured a majority of seats in the Knesset in November 1 elections. Last week, he said he had successfully formed a new coalition. The government, however, has not yet been sworn into office, and Netanyahu and his partners are still finalising their power-sharing agreements.

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