Gay conversion therapy.
That’s what could ultimately bring down the current Netanyahu government. Not the coronavirus or its economic fallout, nor the charges of corruption the prime minister is facing in court. But conversion therapy.
What’s the deal?
Gay conversion therapy is legal in Israel, though discouraged by the Ministry of Health. As a whole, Israel is overly tolerant and even welcoming of homosexuality, but this is not true of the large ultra-Orthodox Jewish minority.
A bill was introduced this month by the opposition that would outlaw conversion therapy in Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his coalition to oppose the bill.
But, the “Blue and White” party as well as the Labor Party fully supported the bill. One Likud member, openly homosexual Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana, also voted in favor of the motion.
What’s the fallout?
Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners–Shas and United Torah Judaism–are now threatening to disrupt and even topple the government and bring about a fourth election.
During the vote on the bill, they shouted curses at their “Blue and White” and Labor coalition partners.
In particular, the ultra-Orthodox MKs informed “Blue and White” leader Benny Gantz that he would now never become prime minister. As part of Gantz’s coalition agreement with Netanyahu, he is supposed to take over as prime minister in September of next year.
What to watch
The bill outlawing conversion therapy has thus far passed only the first of three necessary readings in the Knesset.
It is still a long way from becoming law, and the current government is facing many other challenges that could bring it down long before that.
However, even if Netanyahu and Gantz manage to agree on a state budget and effectively reverse the economic impact of COVID-19, the conversion therapy bill will remain a threat to the coalition.
The ultra-Orthodox parties will never support it, and will not sit in a government that passes it into law.
At the same time, the more liberal “Blue and White” and Labor parties can’t be seen voting against the bill, lest they risk losing even more centrist and left-wing votes to opposition parties.