Israel’s parliament just voted for a bill to ban gay conversion therapy. Ultra-orthodox lawmakers aren’t best pleased


Israel’s parliament approved a bill Wednesday (July 22) to blanket ban so-called conversion therapy, but displeased orthodox lawmakers have suggested the move will shake the already fragile fault lines of the country’s coalition government.

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, approved the bill in its preliminary reading by 42 for and 36 against. Two further readings remain for the bill before it becomes law.

The opposition-led bill was voted for by members of the centrist Blue and White block as well as security minister Amir Ohana of the ruling Likud, going against the rest of the coalition.

After a 510-day-long political crisis that three elections failed to resolve, premier Benjamin Netanyahu saw his leadership extended and his centrist Blue and White rival Benny Gantz sworn in as an “alternative prime minister” in May, choreographing a risky dance to preserve Netanyahu’s already record-breaking tenure.

But this political balancing act could be thrown into jeopardy by the split vote.

The United Torah Judaism Party, a supporter of the fragile coalition until now, said it was ceasing cooperation with Blue and White after it voted in favour of the ban, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Israel coalition could be damaged after conversion therapy vote.

Conversion therapy, vastly debunked by leading psychiatrists and decried as torture by activists and international experts, has been a contested issue in Israel.

Some senior rabbis have expressed their support for the practice in an effort to “eradicate” homosexuality, and education minister Rafi Peretz attracted fierce criticism last year for suggesting he supported it.

The bill to abolish the practice was introduced by Nitzan Horowitz, the gay leader of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, who likened it to “murder.” It would introduce measures to counter psychologists who perform it by withdrawing their license for at least five years and fining them, and may also include a jail sentence.

Speaking of the bill’s approval, Horowitz said the vote was a “historic moment”, but senior leadership of United Torah Judaism Party expressed fears it would harm “the holiness of the family”, as nothing says family like  higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction.

United Torah Judaism Party chairman and housing and construction minister Ya’acov Litzman warned Likud that it must decide “if it knows how to manage the coalition or destroy itself politically”.