Gay conversion therapy and elections: Time to decide

The main issue that might lead us to an election is the state budget, which must pass by the end of August.

Thousands protest throughout the country after Education Minister Rafi Peretz stated that he supports gay conversion therapy. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Thousands protest throughout the country after Education Minister Rafi Peretz stated that he supports gay conversion therapy.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Here we go, again. An election is now being spoken about as being just around the corner.
Again.
This time: a bill that would make gay conversion therapy a criminal offense passed in a preliminary reading. The ultra-Orthodox parties, which are the cornerstone in the foundation of the coalition, decided to shake things up.
United Torah Judaism and Shas dubbed the bill as one that would “damage the sanctity of the Jewish family.” After the vote, they announced that from now on they will not cooperate with legislative initiatives promoted by Blue and White.
They pointed a finger at the Likud and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, who allowed the vote to take place. They also blamed his public security minister, Amir Ohana, the first openly gay minister in the country’s history, who voted in favor of the bill.
It’s not the first time the threat of an election has hovered over this government, which is but three months old. Indeed, despite a promise that it will only deal with combating the coronavirus and the ensuing economic crisis, it seems the government hasn’t had a single moment when it was stable.
It started with annexation. Whether it’s a good idea or not, the government wasted precious time to form a coherent plan on how to deal with the virus and the collapsing economy. For an entire month, Netanyahu and Benny Gantz fought behind closed doors, until the latter came out with a statement at the end of June: everything that is not connected to fighting the coronavirus will wait to the day after.
Another sticking point between the two was a vote to form a Knesset judicial inquiry commission. The vote initiated by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) was first rejected by the coalition, including the Likud. Netanyahu later changed his mind and allowed his party members to vote as they wished.
The motion didn’t pass, but the damage was done. After the vote, Gantz said the move was a “declaration of war against Israeli democracy.”
Channel 12 quoted an anonymous senior member in Blue and White who said that passing the anti-conversion therapy bill was revenge against Likud for the judicial inquiry commission.
However, all of these are the least of the problems that threaten the future of this coalition.
The main issue that might lead us to an election is the state budget, which must pass by the end of August or else the government is dismantled automatically, and the country will immediately head to an election.
There are reports that Gantz wishes to pass a two-year budget, which would assure a stable coalition until at least the end of 2021, when he is supposed to become acting prime minister.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, wants a budget only for 2020: we have no idea how the next fiscal year will look in the age of COVID-19, he argues, so passing a biennial budget makes no sense.
His critics, however, say this is his way to keep Gantz away from the most important office in the country.
On Thursday, anonymous Likud sources were quoted saying the prime minister wants to create an image of chaos in the coalition, which eventually will give him an excuse to impose an election.
The report linked Netanyahu’s desire for an election to developments in his corruption trial – it was said he wants to take over the Justice Ministry, which is now in the hands of Blue and White.
If the budget doesn’t pass by the end of August, Israel will hold an election in November.
Is this for real?
Israel, and the world, are facing the greatest crisis in the last 75 years – and this is what’s on their mind? Personal and political benefit?
We are used to small politics here, but we have always believed that in times like these, our leaders would know how to find common ground.
Sadly, the longest-serving prime minister and a former IDF chief of staff are proving to us that they don’t know how.
This is the last wake-up call. It’s either work this out and start serving the country – or admit failure.
We deserve better than this.