The Left is hypocritical in criticizing Bayit Yehudi’s opposition to gay marriage, the party’s chairman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, said on Thursday night.
Bennett’s comments came after the release of a video showing some of the party’s primary candidates opposing gay marriage, leading politicians on the Left to call Bayit Yehudi homophobic.
“It’s no secret that I wear a kippa,” Bennett said on Channel 10 News, pointing to his head. “Judaism doesn’t recognize gay marriage, just as we don’t recognize milk and meat together as kosher, and nothing will change it... I’m not a hypocrite, I state my positions.”
Bennett said the party is pragmatic: “Our rule was formal recognition – no, rights – yes. We allowed tax breaks for same-sex couples.”
The Bayit Yehudi head challenged leaders of other parties who criticized him to make it a condition of their entering any government that it pass a gay marriage law.
“Put your money where your mouth is,” he said in English.
“They won’t do it, because they want a left-wing government with the haredim, with [United Torah Judaism MK Moshe] Gafni and Shas. LGBT people should know that they’re being manipulated, but we [Bayit Yehudi] always say the truth. We don’t hide it.”
In the same interview and in a subsequent one on Channel 2, Bennett would not commit, after the general election, to recommending to the president that he task Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming the next government, only saying that he will recommend a candidate from the national camp.
“Bayit Yehudi should be the leading political party, because it represents Israel’s core, but I’ll let the voters decide,” Bennett said.
The video that he defended is the first of several the religious- Zionist news site Kipah plans to release before the Bayit Yehudi primary on Wednesday, in which candidates were asked questions.
On Thursday, 17 of them were asked what they think of gay marriage.
“There’s no such thing,” Takana forum against sexual abuse director Yehudit Shilat and Religious Kibbutz Movement Secretary-General Nehemia Rappel both said.
Ethiopian community organizer Moshe Solomon wondered why such a thing would be necessary.
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky and MK Motti Yogev went for the biological argument against gay marriage, saying a man and a woman are necessary to build a family.
French-language weekly Le Petit Hebdo editor Avraham Azoulay called gay people “plagued” and Bayit Yehudi central committee member Chagit Moshe said they are “in distress” and need help.
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan and Kedumim co-founder Sara Eliash both said people can do what they want in private, but the state cannot sanction it.
A few candidates did not show absolute opposition to anything related to same-sex families.
Batya Kahana-Dror, director of Mavoi Satum, an organization that works for women who have been refused a religious divorce, and Im Tirzu founder Ronen Shoval both said that they would support civil unions for gay people, but that marriage should keep its traditional meaning.
Dani Dayan, the foreign envoy of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said he doesn’t think the country should get involved in who marries whom, but he would take his party into consideration when voting on the issue.
Labor-Hatnua leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni responded with a video of their own, speaking out in favor of gay marriage and criticizing Bennett, though he did not appear in the video.
Livni pointed out that Bayit Yehudi vetoed a bill she proposed “for all people to love, get married and start a family,” and called for voters to veto “the extreme Right of [Netanyahu and Bennett].
“Bayit Yehudi came out of the closet,” she said. “They are a backward, homophobic, racist party.”
Herzog told Bennett not to forget that every person is created “in the image,” without saying whose image.
“Tzipi and I believe there is room for everyone in this country, and we will make sure it gives everyone a response in their personal lives and in the public character of the country. We will not let you destroy that,” Herzog said.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On wrote on Facebook that the video should be watched on an empty stomach, presumably to prevent vomiting.
The Bayit Yehudi candidates are “demolishing the basic dignity of hundreds of thousands of Israelis without blinking,” Gal-On added.
“I have news for Naftali Bennett and the backward group he is proudly leading to the Knesset: Your time is up,” she wrote. “Gay marriage, civil marriage, sanity in the State of Israel – you oppose all these things and it is all going to happen despite your hatred of anything that resembles tolerance and acceptance. You should be ashamed of your ignorance.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said the video revealed the true, homophobic face of Bayit Yehudi.
“We say clearly: Every two people have the right to love each other and get married,” he wrote on Facebook. “We fought for this right and will continue fight for it in the next Knesset.”
Lapid called for Bennett to apologize, as former education minister Shay Piron, who is in Yesh Atid, did earlier this year after saying: “I think it is the right of a Jewish state, even its responsibility, to say to samesex couples who want to live their lives, ‘This is not a family.’ But they should get economic rights, a mortgage, the right to be parents, etc.”
Koolanu did not come out in support of gay marriage. The party’s spokesman said: “Every couple has the right to build a home in Israel according to the status quo. As such, the party believes in live and let live.”
The Likud and Yisrael Beytenu did not respond to inquiries about their positions on gay marriage by press time.