Conversion therapy becomes key to elections

On Thursday, another kind of conversion therapy took center stage.

July 22, 2019 05:41
2 minute read.
Conversion therapy becomes key to elections

Israel's Education minister Rafi Peretz arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MENAHEM KAHANA / REUTERS)

When Bayit Yehudi leader Rafi Peretz apologized for speaking in favor of conversion therapy for the LGBT community, he might have thought he had put the issue to rest.

But it is looking more and more that this election is exactly about that: attempts to convert people from their natural tendencies.
The election began with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman refusing to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition because he wants more haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to serve in the IDF, to be like the rest of Israelis and subject to conscription.

The focus shifted from the haredim to the LGBT community, which Peretz thought could be converted to what is societally acceptable in his haredi religious Zionist sector.

On Thursday, another kind of conversion therapy took center stage.

Labor leader Amir Peretz ended efforts to unite the parties to the left of Blue and White, and instead reached an agreement with former Yisrael Beytenu MK and current Gesher Party leader Orly Levy-Abecassis.

The basis for the agreement was their belief that by focusing on socioeconomic issues, they could woo voters in the periphery and poor neighborhoods away from the Likud. Peretz is promising to bring about a political upheaval, and believes he has the right strategy.

That strategy is in effect conversion therapy for right-wing voters: convert them to putting socioeconomic issues first, before the traditional Left-Right divide on diplomatic issues, and perhaps Netanyahu can be defeated.

On the one hand, the strategy makes sense. They are really only asking poor people to put themselves first and stop voting for the capitalist Likud.

The Palestinian issue is not a factor in the election anyway. The leaders of Blue and White, Labor and Meretz all have nothing to say about it, and prefer other issues that are closer to their heart.

On the other hand, this strategy is very risky for several reasons.

First of all, Israelis tend to vote on security and diplomatic issues, regardless of what is happening to the economy.

Secondly, Blue and White already failed at wooing right-wing voters in the April election. MK Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem Party, which had no chance of crossing the electoral threshold, was overpaid to join Blue and White, just like Peretz overpaid Gesher.

Ya’alon’s impact was marginal, and it is likely that Levy-Abecassis will be as well.

The final reason why Peretz’s strategy is risky is that conversion therapy has never been proven successful. But it has been proven dangerous.

Whether this attempt at conversion therapy proves different will be known when the votes are counted the night of September 17.

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