Israeli PM’s wife Sara Netanyahu defends his LGBT rights record after protests

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has responded to widespread anger from the country’s LGBT community.

Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire this month for his handling of a bill to legalise surrogacy in the Israeli Parliament.

Although the bill extended surrogacy rights to women who cannot naturally conceive, PM Netanyahu buckled to pressure from anti-LGBT politicians to block an amendment that would have extended the same right to gay couples – despite an early promise to support it.

The move has led to a tidal wave of fury against the state and Benjamin Netanyahu personally, with massive protests taking place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Karmiel last week.

Protesters against PM Benjamin Netanyahu (The Aguda – The Israeli National LGBT Task Force)

The Prime Minister has resisted speaking out personally following the protests, but his wife Sara Netanyahu sought to address the issue in an interview with Channel 2.

The PM’s spouse, who has recently faced a political storm of her own over fraud charges, insisted LGBT people have equality in Israel.

She said: “I do not think they are not equal… I think our country is very advanced, and only continues to advance.”

Addressing the protests, she said: “Guys, have some patience. You have someone here who is thinking about you. I’m not elected, I’m not the head of state, but I can tell you that you are in his heart.”

She added: “I think everyone in the community knows how much I help them.

“I helped a couple bring their children from India, and I helped many couples when they were in Nepal, and really, behind the scenes I am very supportive and helpful.

“The prime minister is also very supportive. We have to give him time and patience and everything will be fine.”

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty)

Protesters gathered outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on July 22, chanting slogans accusing him of being a homophobe.

Many of the country’s largest businesses had notified employees that they would not face action for taking part in planned strike action to protest the law.

Israel is moderately progressive on LGBT rights.

The country has laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, transgender people are able to change their legal gender, and the Israeli government recognises same-sex marriages conducted overseas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara walk out from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty)

Only approved religious authorities can administer legal weddings in Israel, and none approve of same-sex marriage, meaning gay Israelis have to marry abroad.

Attitudes in some parts of the country are much more conservative. Pride events in Jerusalem have been marred by instances of homophobia and violence from ultra-Orthodox men on several occasions.