Photo credit: Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, Guy Yechiely

Israel’s coalition government could be at a breaking point after the law passed.

Israel has passed the first step in a ban on the discredited practice of ‘conversion therapy’, with the decision risking the country’s ruling political coalition. The bill was backed by some parties in the coalition agreement, like the Blue and White Party and the Labor Party.

The ban will still need to have two further readings and be approved by a Knessnet committee before it becomes law. If it’s fully passed, the law will ban the practice, and people convicted of performing it could face up to a year in a jail, and have their medical licences cancelled for up to five years.

Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Party, told members of his party via WhatsApp: “We promised that and we will deliver. There could be repercussions. Nevertheless, this is a top-priority moral issue and it’s the right thing to do.”

The practice – which has been discredited by the NHS and the World Psychiatric Association – refers to any attempt at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and often involves techniques like electroshock therapy or prayer.

Members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likut Party were told to vote against the bill, according to the Times of Israel, but not all complied, including Amir Ohana, the Public Security Minister, who is openly gay.

LGBTQ+ advocates in the gallery cheered as the vote came through, however ultra-Orthodox lawmakers were furious, and shouted “You will not be prime minister” at Gantz. Gantz is scheduled to become Prime Minister of Israel on 17 November 2021, under the coalition government’s agreement to have an alternating PM.

Members of the Blue and White Party were said to have breached the coalition government’s agreement that the parties would both have to agree on a political matter in order to vote for it. “Blue and White are creating cracks in the coalition and leading Israel to elections… it’s brazen and shameless, against all coalition agreements,” said David Amsalem, a minister for Likud.

However, the Blue and White Party hit back, saying that Likud had already violated the agreement, over a vote on the formation of a state commission of inquiry to probe Supreme Court judges’ alleged conflicts of interests.

The United Torah Judaism Party, another partner in the coalition, also hit out at Blue and White for supporting the law. Yaakov Litzman, a member of the party and the Housing Minister, said: “Blue and White’s poor conduct, in violation of coalition discipline, is an open affront to our political partnership.

“Likud must decide whether it knows how to manage a coalition or if it is committing political suicide.”

The bill had received widespread support from celebrities, ‘conversion therapy’ survivors and a prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi. In a letter, the survivors urged lawmakers not to “abandon teenagers to mental abuse by ‘therapists’ who will make them believe they are flawed due to a natural and human orientation.”

They added: “We are all carrying the scars that refuse to heal to this day. We suffered in the treatment. We hated ourselves, we suffered from depression, and some of us wanted or tried to commit suicide. It goes without saying that the ‘therapy’ didn’t convert a single one of us. Our sexual orientations and identities haven’t changed.”

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