Benjamin Netanyahu, the newly elected leader of Israel, promised that his next administration would not violate LGBTQ people’s rights in a rare rebuke of his new coalition allies on Sunday for stating that they would promote laws allowing discrimination against them.
Between his Likud party and several overtly anti-LGBTQ groups, Netanyahu is poised to become the most virulently nationalist and religious government in Israel’s history.
This has caused the LGBTQ community in Israel to worry that the new government, which is set to enter office in the upcoming week, may undo recent progress made for LGBTQ rights in Israel.
Orit Struck, a Religious Zionist and member of Israel’s Knesset, said her party wants to amend the nation’s anti-discrimination law to allow people to refrain from actions incompatible with their religious convictions, such as discriminating against LGBTQ persons in hospitals.
Struck stated that Christian healthcare practitioners should be entitled to decline to treat LGBTQ patients “as long as there are enough other doctors to give care” in an interview with Kan public radio on Sunday.
Another party member, Simcha Rotman, stated that it should be acceptable for private company owners, such as hoteliers, to refuse service to LGBTQ people “if it hurts their religious emotions.”
According to Netanyahu, the coalition agreement “does not enable discrimination against LGBTQ or damaging their right to access services like any other Israeli residents,” and Struck’s comments “are unacceptable to members of the Likud and me.”
The departing administration took several modest steps to advance LGBTQ rights, including lifting a ban on gay men donating blood, easing access to gender reassignment surgery, and taking a strong stance against “conversion therapy,” the method of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or conventional gender expectations that has been scientifically debunked.
Two ultra-Orthodox parties that forbid women from joining them are part of the new government, together with Religious Zionism, an umbrella movement whose leaders openly support homophobia.
Several previous government ministers, well-known artists and entertainers, and members of the LGBTQ community openly serve in the Israeli military and parliament.
However, leaders in the LGBTQ community claim that Israel still needs to do a lot to advance equality.
In the elections held on November 1, Netanyahu’s religious and nationalist parties won the majority of seats in the Knesset.
He claimed to have successfully created a new coalition last week.
But the government has not yet taken the oath of office, and Netanyahu and his allies are still working out the details of its power-sharing arrangements.
Before losing his position as prime minister of Israel last year, Netanyahu held the position for 12 years.