Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz caused a firestorm of protest Saturday night after stating he believes the highly controversial practice of “gay conversion therapy”.
Peretz explained that he has been involved in conducting such “treatment” to gay individuals in the past in a process that aims to help a person “get to know himself better and then decide” on his or her sexual orientation.
The remarks drew intense condemnation from different sects of Israeli society, including teachers, politicians and the prime minister himself, who sought to distance himself from the divisive comments.
“The statements of the Minister of Education regarding the gay community are not acceptable to me and do not reflect the position of the government headed by me,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night.
“I spoke this evening with Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who made it clear that the Israeli education system will continue to accept all of Israel’s children whoever they are, with no difference in sexual orientation,” Netanyahu added.
A source in the Jewish Home party even suggested that Peretz would be forced to step down from his position as chairman.
“Peretz ended his historic role as chairman of the Jewish home. The Jewish Home Party was supposed to be a party that understood and contained the Israeli reality and does not clash with it like a car in the wall,” the unnamed source reportedly told Israel’s Channel 7 news outlet.
“The education minister’s remarks are grave. Any statement regarding conversion treatments can not be legitimate in Israel in 2019. The right of every person to live according to his faith, opinion and inclination is a cornerstone of Israeli democracy and will defend it with all our might,” said Benny Gantz, chairman of the center Blue & White party.
The newly elected head of the Labor Party Amir Peretz also slammed the education minister’s comments as “inhumane and not Jewish.”
“Stop interfering in the personal lives of civilians. Every person has the right to love, marry and establish a family with whom he chooses,” the left-wing politician added.