The Jewish Chronicle

The rabbi who became a thorn in Bibi’s side


Benjamin Netanyahu, in making him education minister to replace Mr Bennett, must have thought that Mr Peretz would cause him little trouble. He may also have thought the appointmen­t would be a good way to ensure that Jewish Home will stick by him in coalition after the next election.

But despite the “unifying” image, Mr Peretz is also a follower of Rabbi Tzvi Tau, one of the more radical spiritual leaders in Israel who recently embarked on a campaign against what he sees as a loosening of morals in Israeli society. Rabbi Tau’s particular gripes are with women in IDF combat roles and a growing acceptance of LGBT people. Some acolytes have even launched a movement called “Noam – A normal people in our land”.

So perhaps some of Mr Peretz’s recent remarks should be less of a surprise. Two weeks ago, in his first cabinet meeting, he said he was deeply concerned about assimilati­on in North America and said it was a “second Holocaust” — a deeply offensive analogy for many. Then he supported annexing the West Bank and opposed giving the Palestinia­ns political rights, even while acknowledg­ing this could be seen as “apartheid”.

But most damaging of all was his endorsemen­t of conversion therapy for young men and teenagers coming to terms with their homosexual­ity. Of all these, LGBT rights could be most problemati­c for Mr Netanyahu.

These days many right-wingers, both secular and modern Orthodox, have a pretty relaxed view — indeed, another recent ministeria­l appointmen­t was Amir Ohana, Israel’s first openly gay minister.

But the spectacle of his political ally, the new education minister responsibl­e for all Israeli children, supporting a treatment classified by Israel’s main medical associatio­ns as “unethical” is highly damaging for Mr Netanyahu. His rivals on the right are running their campaign on portraying Mr Netanyahu as being “controlled by extremists”. Mr Peretz has given them a major boost.

The minister has since tried to row back, saying he does not believe conversion therapy should be forced on anyone and that he accepts all young people no matter their sexuality. But he hit back at the media too for not respecting his views. He knows that Mr Netanyahu cannot afford to fire him; he is already growing short on allies.

He must have thought Rafi Peretz would cause him little trouble’

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