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Israel’s Knesset Rocked by Bill to Outlaw Gay Conversion Therapy

Pandemonium broke out on Wednesday in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, after a bill seeking to ban gay conversion therapy, introduced by the opposition, passed the first of three readings. It now goes back to committee for further work, but the ultra-Orthodox parties in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s so-called unity government expressed outrage. Their voters generally frown on homosexuality, and many of their rabbis practice the therapy. Just as bad in their eyes, however, is the fact that members of the centrist Blue and White party, which is one of their coalition partners, supported the bill. Anxious to appease the religious lawmakers, Netanyahu had imposed party discipline on his Likud colleagues, though one of them, his openly gay public security minister, openly broke ranks, while several other Likud legislators abstained. Following the vote, members of the ultra-Orthodox parties were heard to yell in the direction of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz that he “will never be prime minister.” Gantz is supposed to take over from Netanyahu a year from November under a rotation deal that makes up a substantial part of the coalition agreement, the upshot being that the religious parties could now steer the coalition boat from what are already choppy waters into a full-fledged gale.