At first it was the economy, now it’s gay marriage that is taking center stage in Israel’s roiling election campaign.
Fierce debate over recognition of same-sex marriage in Israel was triggered following the airing of a video in which several Knesset candidates belonging to the right-wing Jewish Home Party were seen staunchly opposing what they see as the violation of biblical matrimony.
The left wing parties were quick to capitalize, accusing Jewish Home and its leader, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (pictured), of being “homophobic.”
Bennett appeared on Channel 10 News to defend himself: “It’s no secret that I’m [religious]. Judaism does not recognize gay marriage. We do not even view as kosher the mixing of milk and meat, and nothing is going to change that.”
In representing the religious community in Israel, Bennett insisted that his party was being pragmatic on the issue, noting that while Jewish Home rejects formal recognition of same-sex marriage, it is in favor of tax breaks for homosexual couples.
In the video in question, member of Jewish Home insisted that officially recognize gay marriage was unnecessary, that a family requires a man and a woman, and even that homosexuals suffer from a “condition” for which they “need help.”
Opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni of the merged Labor-Hatnua faction responded with their own video in which they spoke out strongly in favor of recognizing same-sex marrage. Livni called for legislation permitting anyone and everyone in Israel to love, marry and start a family.
Herzog and Livni urged voters to prevent the backward, homophobic and racist Jewish Home and others on what they called the “extreme right” from controlling the next government.
Former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said Jewish Home had finally shown their true faces as homophobes, and urged Bennett to alter course.
Zahava Gal-On, head of the far-left Meretz Party, wrote on Facebook that one should only watch the Jewish Home video bashing gay marriage “on an empty stomach to avoid vomiting.”