Israeli Education Minister says he supports gay conversion therapy

Israeli Education Minister, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, expressed support for gay conversion therapy in a television interview on Saturday.

Peretz, who is the leader of the United Right party, said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News: “I think it [conversion therapy] is possible. I can tell you I have a very deep familiarity with this kind of education, and I have also done this.” He described counselling a student who told him about his sexual orientation, saying: “First I hugged him and uttered very warm words—let’s think, let’s learn, let’s observe. The objective is for him first of all to know himself well. I give him the data, I say to him, listen, at this point I am leaving you—now you decide.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Peretz’s comments as unacceptable, and “do not represent my government’s position.” Likud’s Justice Minister, Amir Ohana, who is gay, said: “Sexual orientation does not require therapy nor conversion. Preconceived notions and ignorance require therapy and conversion.”

Nitzan Horowitz, the leader of Meretz, and the first openly gay leader of a political party, said: “Not only does he [Peretz] support this, he also proudly exclaims that he has done this. Rafi Peretz, what are you proud about? That you have erased the identity of girls and boys? That you have caused them to feel as if their sexual orientation were a disease? That they do not have a place to be who they are and love whomever they choose?” He added that conversion therapy is “dangerous”, and “liable to lead to suicide.” He called on Netanyahu to convert Peretz “from being minister of education to a position where you will cause less damage.”

Yair Lapid, from the Blue and White Party, said Peretz cannot continue to serve as education minister: “Until [he] undergoes conversion therapy for his regressive and wild opinions.”

Yesterday Peretz attempted to clarify his statement in a long Facebook post: “I did not say it was necessary to send children to conversion therapy. I have met with students who were in terrible distress with regard to their sexual orientation and decided to request professional help in order to change. The school system under my leadership will continue to accept all of the boys and girls in Israel, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

In the same interview Peretz expressed his support for applying Israeli sovereignty over all of the West Bank but not giving Palestinians living there any political rights.