Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting on March 11, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Hundreds of demonstrators blocked Ibn Gvirol and other main streets in Tel Aviv Wednesday night to protest the passage that afternoon of the surrogacy law. The bill, enacted by a vote of 59 to 52, expands eligibility for state-supported surrogacy to include single women but excludes single men and gay couples. Previously state support was only given to married heterosexual couples.
Passage of the law generated consternation in the opposition and liberal groups.
Further controversy was created when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted against an amendment proposed by Likud MK Amir Ohana granting single men access to surrogacy. Netanyahu had previously said he would support the amendment.
Earlier this week Netanyahu posted a video saying “MK Amir Ohana... raised a simple point on the surrogacy bill. Single mothers [will have] the right to surrogacy and single fathers will not. This is simply not fair, and we need to fix it. And so I told him in the Likud faction meeting that I would support an amendment that he will submit.”
During Wednesday’s vote, however, Netanyahu failed to support the amendment. Ohana backpedaled that the prime minister would support a new amendment were it to be submitted in the Knesset’s winter session.
Netanyahu said subsequent to the vote in a video posted to YouTube that he still supports surrogacy for mothers and fathers.
“Today we voted in favor of a law for mothers. I told MK Ohana ahead of time that I would not support his current amendment because it would topple the law and then mothers would not have access to surrogacy. Despite that, I said that if he introduces a law for fathers I will support it. This is the right thing to do.”
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Channel 2 reported that the haredi parties threatened to topple the government if Netanyahu backed the amendment for fathers.
As passed, the surrogacy law limits a woman – married or single – to two surrogacy births, and requires that the surrogate mother be between the ages of 22 to 39.
Ohana himself, as well as MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu), were given permission to vote against their party lines and voted against the bill.
Netanyahu’s reversal was panned by the opposition which accused the prime minister of caving in to haredi and hard-line National Religious pressure against surrogacy for gays.
“Two days ago, Netanyahu promised at a meeting for the Likud Party that he would support a law that would allow LGBT fathers to be parents, but yet he voted against it. He’s a coward,” decried Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak also slammed Netanyahu for caving in to pressure from religious parties, citing hard-right MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) as one of the opponents to surrogacy for gays.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is spineless. First he says that he is in favor of surrogacy for homosexual fathers, and then he votes against it. Again he surrenders to the “Smotriches” — they have him by the throat. An audacious liar. Coward.”
MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) was equally critical. “The Likud Party, Kulanu and Yisrael Beytenu are at the mercy of Ya’acov Litzman and the haredim, against the gay community, against the principles of justice and equality, against society.”
A Wider Bridge, a San Francisco- based LGBTQ organization which supports Israel’s LGBTQ community, also expressed disappointment with the passage of the bill.
“LGBTQ people in Israel face mounting odds, something made clearer after the Knesset’s passage of the discriminatory legislation last night, despite fierce opposition from Israel’s LGBTQ communities and allies, and words of support from the prime minister,” said A Wider Bridge executive director Tyler Gregory.
“The ability of the ultra-Orthodox parties within the government to force a vote on anti-gay legislation is yet another instance of the Israeli government highlighting its support of LGBTQ rights abroad while harming LGBTQ people at home by prioritizing coalition politics over people’s lives.”
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