Australian Jewish group is concerned about homophobia in new Israeli government

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry have congratulated incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his election win but have also voiced concern about homophobic elements within the coalition he may lead.

Netanyahu returned to leading Israel following elections last week. He was previously the Prime Minister for 12 years but was ousted in 2021. The country has had five elections in the last four years, with no party being able to maintain a majority coalition.

Netanyahu’s bloc won 64 seats, while the coalition led by the incumbent Prime Minister Yair Lapid won 51 seats. The new government has been described as the most right-wing in the country’s history, as well as being the most religiously focused.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry voices concern

In a statement the Executive Council of Australian Jewry congratulated Netanyahu on his success.

“This election saw a record voter turnout for both Jewish and Arab citizens and shows the strength and vibrancy of Israeli democracy. Israel remains the only place in the Middle East where regular elections are held in which all citizens have an equal vote and an unrestricted choice in voting governments into and out of office.” said co-CEO’s Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin.

“Clearly, it is for the citizens of a state to select their own government and, in a free and democratic process, their right to make their own choice is to be respected. It is also true that the Jewish people worldwide have a stake in the future of the Jewish state. We are profoundly connected to it and therefore have a desire to see a government that is stable, effective and capable of uplifting all of its citizens and enhancing its place in the world.

They also raised concern about who would be included in the new Prime Minister’s cabinet.

“It appears also that, as has occurred in many democracies around the world, populist extremist politicians, with an openly racist and homophobic agenda, have made strong electoral gains, and are likely to hold ministerial positions when a new government is formed. Though this group runs under the banner of “Religious Zionism”, in our view, much of their rhetoric is incompatible both with our religion and with Zionism.” Wertheim and Ryvchin said.

Right win politicians call for bans on Pride parades and voice support for conversion therapy

LGBT groups in Israel have voiced their concern about potential members of the new government clamping down on LGBT rights, and in the aftermath of the election right-wing politicians began voicing their plans.

Orit Strock, a member of the right-wing Religious Zionism Party, spoke out this week saying “leftists, Arabs, and members of the LGBT community” had nothing to fear. Strock’s party may end up a coalition partner in new government.

“We’re not going to hammer anyone,” Strock said. “We will serve all citizens, including those who do not think like us and whose lifestyles are different.”

However, she also said her party would seek to “bring order to the public space,” a statement which many took to mean a ban on gay pride parades.

“Regardless of pride, there shouldn’t be marches of people walking down the street naked or half naked,” she said. “The problem is with years-long efforts, not just here but around the world, to force things on the public.”

Colleague Avi Maoz, head of the anti-LGBT Noam faction in Religious Zionism confirmed the plan during a radio interview, decribing Pride events as a provocation to the general public.

“It is illegal for a person to walk naked in the street. There is no public participation without limits. What a person does in his private home is their business and I don’t intend on getting involved,” Maoz said.

He also indicated that he would seek to roll back ban on conversion therapy that have been implemented by the country’s health department. Maoz said there should be “psychological advice for those who don’t want to be gay.”

The suggestion that gay pride parades may be banned was played down by incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu who said his government had no plans of that nature.

OIP Staff

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