Following the Knesset’s approval of a bill on Wednesday banning licensed psychologists from practicing conversion therapy in Israel, furious Chareidi MKs threatened to walk out of the coalition due to individual coalition members’ support of the bill despite the coalition’s instructions to vote against it.
Public Security Minister Likud MK Amir Ohana (who is gay) voted for the bill and several other Likud MKs absented themselves from the vote. Furthermore, Blue and White members voted for the bill despite the coalition’s opposition as well as Labor Party members, one of whom, Minister of Labor, Social Welfare and Social Services Itzik Shmuli, is also gay.
Chareidi MKs shouted “shame” and “disgrace” at Blue and White members for violating the coalition agreement, which requires that Blue and White adhere to coalition demands on all votes except annexation issues.
United Torah Judaism members announced that they are releasing themselves from all coalition agreements and are considering their next steps. Shas MKs announced they will not participate in any Knesset votes until further notice.
The bill passed by a preliminary vote of 42-36 and still must pass three additional votes in the Knesset become becoming law. It was initiated by Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz (who himself is gay) and if it does become law will revoke the licenses of any psychologists found to have practiced conversion therapy and penalize them with fines and even jail terms.
However, the bill seems to be more of a political statement than a practical tool since non-licensed therapists or religious figures are legally allowed to practice therapy in Israel and the bill does not address non-psychologists who practice conversion therapy. Furthermore, as Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch (Likud), who opposed the bill, said, the bill is superfluous since current law already allows psychologists to be penalized for practicing conversion therapy. When Horowitz subsequently agreed to exclude criminal penalties from the bill, Kish asserted that the bill was merely a “political statement” but Horowitz then insisted on leaving the bill as it was originally proposed, including criminal penalties.
“It was expected from a party that claimed to be a ruling party to act responsibly and not out of whims and revenge, definitely not on issues regarding the most sensitive area of Yahadus,” said MK Yaakov Asher (UTJ). “This is a violation of the coalition’s mutual commitment in all its implications. Judaism cannot be held hostage to the conflicts and mutual revenge of Blue and White and Likud.”
Asher was referring to rumors that Blue and White voted for the bill in revenge for the Likud’s vote to form a committee to monitor Supreme Court judges’ conflict of interest despite the opposition of Blue and White. A Blue and White senior official told Channel 12 News: “What we did today is payback to the Likud for the committee to monitor judges. We’re not pushovers.”
Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman said that Blue and White’s decision to vote for the bill despite the coalition’s opposition is “a challenge to our political partnership with them” and that the Likud has to decide if it can lead a coalition or “if it will lose itself politically.”
Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich spoke out against the bill and slammed Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid by saying: You’re fine with gender reassignment surgery on 10-year olds but not fine with aiding confused boys who want help and direction…There are hundreds and thousands of young men who have been helped and live a happy life until 120.”
There have been several attempts to ban conversion therapy in Israel in the past but they have all failed.
Earlier this month, coalition chairman Miki Zohar (Likud) threatened to sanction three gay MKs in the coalition who voted for a coalition-opposed bill that would have permitted gay couples to adopt children from surrogate mothers in Israel.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)