Naftali Bennett speaking at a Tel Aviv International Salon event.
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Bayit Yehudi supports full rights for gay couples, but not marriage, party chairman Naftali Bennett said at a Tel Aviv International Salon event on Tuesday night.
He described his party’s stance as supporting “full rights that derive from marriage, like in mortgages and other areas,” but opposing recognition of gay marriage.
“I believe in live and let live. What you do in your own home, I don’t care. The gay community are our brothers and sisters. They serve in the IDF,” Bennett said.
He brought up the example of his party backing a bill that allowed gay couples to receive the same tax benefit that heterosexual married couples receive. When Yesh Atid tried to pass it with language that would recognize gay marriages, Bayit Yehudi opposed the bill, but when the wording was changed, Bennett’s party voted in its favor.
LGBT rights activists set up a protest installation made up of gay pride flags outside the Tel Aviv venue and handed out flyers with quotes from Bayit Yehudi candidates that they found objectionable, including calling gay people perverts, saying they shouldn’t serve in the army and need to undergo treatment and that “marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Shortly after Bennett began his speech to more than 500 young, English-speaking professionals, the LGBT protesters disrupted him by shouting and waving gay pride flags. Tuesday’s speech was one of several recent Bayit Yehudi events in which the flags were waved.
“I respect you guys, I appreciate your protest and I am willing to address your questions,” Bennett said. “In a democracy, you talk. If you want to talk, I will. I respect everyone’s right to expression and I expect you to respect mine. You’re doing a disservice to your cause.”
After the ruckus was quelled nonviolently, Bennett complained of left-wing protests at many of his events in the month.
“I think people don’t want to talk, but we will continue talking, always,” he declared.
Earlier on Tuesday, Bennett announced he would go to the US next week to show his support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who plans to speak about the Iranian nuclear threat before a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“In the Iranian issue, there is no Right and Left. At this time, Iran is nearing nuclear weapons under the powers’ cover, and we don’t have time for politics. I call on all party leaders to put their disputes aside and join the prime minister in his mission against Iran,” Bennett said, singling out Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog as someone who should join the “national mission.”
To that end, Bennett plans to speak at AIPAC and meet with members of Congress in Washington.
Back at the Tel Aviv International Salon, he riled up the crowd several times with proudly Zionist messages.
Israel “has been Jewish land for 3,800 years,” Bennett’s declared, drawing a raucous round of applause. He made the statement in response to a question about how to improve the country’s international standing, saying that Israel needs to change the narrative from its need to defend itself to its right to the land.
When asked what his mission statement is, Bennett said, “The strength of Israel will thrive forever,” paraphrasing the Book of Samuel I. "We have our own Jewish state. That is amazing!” he exclaimed enthusiastically, and the crowd responded in kind.