'Discrimination law' in Israel coalition deal despite Netanyahu's claims

The amendment to Israel's discrimination law will allow businesses and doctors to refuse to service people, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community, if it violates their religious beliefs.

 United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf and Otzma Yehudit chair Itamar Ben-Gvir with MKs from the likely coalition, November 21, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf and Otzma Yehudit chair Itamar Ben-Gvir with MKs from the likely coalition, November 21, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s clarifications earlier this week that LGBT or other minority groups’ rights will be maintained in the government, the final agreements between the Likud and both RZP and UTJ’s say otherwise.

They included the amendment that would enable private businesses to refuse to provide a product or service due to religious belief if the same product or service could be obtained in near proximity at a similar price.

The amendment includes enabling a doctor to refuse to supply care if it violates his or her religious belief, and a hotel owner refusing to give a room to a gay couple, according to comments made on Sunday by Religious Zionist Party MKs Simcha Rothman and Orit Struck.

Struck will be the next national missions minister. Rothman will be the Knesset’s next Constitution and Law Committee chairman.

What is the Israeli coalition deal's discrimination law amendment for?

The law’s nickname is the “Motti Steinmetz Law,” named after a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) musician whose gender-segregated concert in Afula was deemed illegal discrimination by the High Court in August 2019.

 MK Orit Struk attends a protest against the demolition of structures in the illegal outpost of Homesh, outside the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on January 9, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) MK Orit Struk attends a protest against the demolition of structures in the illegal outpost of Homesh, outside the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on January 9, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

RZP’s spokesman said last week the purpose of the law is to allow for such concerts, and is not intended to whitewash discrimination. The spokesman gave other scenarios where it could apply, such as an Orthodox barber refusing to shave a client with a razor, which is prohibited by Jewish law.

Rothman and Struck’s comments led to an uproar, with dozens of politicians, civil organizations and tech companies stating they opposed such legislation and reaffirming their commitment to provide equal service. Even President Isaac Herzog weighed in, and in a rare statement condemned “any statement that serves as a basis for exclusion or any phenomenon that enables discrimination.”

"The coalition agreements do not enable discrimination against LGBTQ people or harm their rights to receive services like every citizen in Israel."

Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu as a result, first in a statement and then in a video, said the comments were unacceptable and that “the coalition agreements do not enable discrimination against LGBT people or harm their rights to receive services like every citizen in Israel.”

It remains to be seen whether this law will indeed pass into legislation, or remain on paper, as most clauses in coalition agreements do. If it does pass, it is not clear whether or not this discrimination will indeed be considered legal.