Naftali Bennett, chair of Habayit Hayehudi, a right-wing Israeli religious political party, said that he opposes same-sex marriage.
Israel is in the midst of political campaigns for the country’s elections on the 22 January 2013.
Answering a question regarding same-sex marriage from a student during a political campaign on Tuesday (25 December), Bennett was quoted by the daily Haaretz as saying: ‘These are two clashing values.
‘I am for “live and let live”, but this clashes with the values of Israel as a Jewish state. It has a set of family values. The state cannot absorb or contain official recognition of same-sex marriage’.
Bennett, a major in the Israeli army reserves, added an example to ‘demonstrate’ his ‘tolerance’, saying: ‘I had a soldier in the reserves who came out. We joked about him, but it was in good fun. It was fine’.
Bennett repeatedly refused answering questions posed by Jewish religious gay organizations or even meet with them saying: ‘there are more important issues for the people of Israel at this time’.
While rejecting dialogue with LGBT rights groups, Bennett is surprisingly on record criticising Hamas, telling CNN that the Palestinians chose to make Gaza a ‘Taliban state’ after Israel evacuated it, with ‘no rights for women and homosexuals’.
Habayit Hayehudi party issued a statement saying: ‘Naftali Bennett is a people person and will not agree to stigmatize anyone, as indicated by the story he himself told about a member of the community who served alongside him in his unit, or by his opposition to discrimination against the community in Arab states.
‘Bennett has stated his position clearly on the issue. But he has also stressed that the solution to controversial issues in Israeli society can only be through dialogue ... There is no chance we will agree to a continued dialogue of hate in Israeli society, of one group against another. It's worth trying a different way’.
Speaking with GSN, Shabi Gatenio, chair of the political division of the Aguda, Israel’s main LGBT organization said: ‘On the one hand Bennett’s statement isn’t progressive, on the other it is an improvement on what we have previously heard from right wing politicians.
‘The Aguda will soon stage a public political panel with wide ranging participants, even from the right wing ruling party, the Likud.
‘We could only dream of such a situation 10 years ago and Bennett’s statement isn’t worrying me in the slightest.
‘I am far more worried by religious orthodox leaders who are consistently present in every Israeli government and have far more extreme views which remained unchanged for 50 years.
‘With time and patience, people of the likes of Bennett are open to dialogue.
‘I must say that Bennett’s critique of LGBT rights in Palestine or other Arab states is an attempt at political dogma, what is called pinkwashing, rather than any profound care for gay rights anywhere.
‘Most advocates working for LGBT rights here do not use their work to justify such political rhetoric.
‘I must stress that despite the Aguda inviting Bennett’s party to participate in the panel, it has so far refused to do so’.