The Knesset advanced two legislativeÂ proposals today toÂ banÂ gay conversion therapy. Israelâ€™s parliament passed the preliminary vote on two bills outlawing the controversial practice by a majority of 42 lawmakers against 36 for the first bill andÂ 43 against 35 for the second. Both bills were presented by the opposition â€” one by Labor Knesset member Merav Michaeli, and one by Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz. The proposals criminalize conversion therapy, to be punishable by incarceration for up to one year. The bills would alsoÂ cancel the licenses of psychologists engaged in such therapyÂ for a period of five years. The bills still need approvalÂ in two more Knesset hearings.
Several Blue of White membersÂ voted in favor of the proposals, against the position of their coalition members inÂ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuâ€™s Likud and by his ultra-Orthodox political partners. Public Security Minister Amir Ohana of the Likud, who is openly gay, was the only member of his party to support the bill, with some Likud lawmakers absent from the Knesset plenum.
Blue and White’s leaderÂ Defense Minister Benny Gantz,Â tweeted just before the vote, “Conversion therapy was born in sin and its place is outside of the law and the public norm. That is why we will vote today in favor of the law and against conversion therapy. Thatâ€™s why we are here. We promised and we intend to follow through. It is the right thing to do.”
As in other Western countries, Israeli scientists and opinion-makers have strongly condemned gay conversion therapy. Still, though discouraged by Israelâ€™s Health Ministry, this practice has remainedÂ legalÂ and isÂ accepted in some Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox circles.
In July 2019, then-Education Minister Rafi Peretz of the national-religious Jewish Home Party provoked a public storm over the issueÂ by openly supporting conversion therapy. “I think it is possible. I can tell you I have a very deep familiarity with this kind of education, and I have also done this,â€ the minister said. Shortly after the interview was aired, Netanyahu said he had asked Peretz for â€œclarification,”Â stating, â€œThe education ministerâ€™s remarks regarding the gay community are unacceptable to me and do not reflect the position of the government that I head.”
Ultra-Orthodox parties, whichÂ object to the bill, wereÂ hoping over the past few days that a milder version of the proposal would be presented. The version presented on July 22 for the preliminary hearingÂ and the support of Blue and White coalition membersÂ prompted furious reactions on theirÂ part. Representatives of Shas and Yahadut HaTorah announced that their lawmakers will no longer cooperate with their Blue and White coalition partners. Ultra-Orthodox Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman lambasted Blue and White’s “rotten conduct against coalition discipline,” calling it “a challenge to the political partnership.”