Israeli Cabinet minister suggests gay conversion therapy 'is possible'

Israel's Channel 12 News asked Education Minister Rafi Peretz, if he believed it was possible to Israel's Channel 12 News asked Education Minister Rafi Peretz, if he believed it was possible to "convert" people who believed they were gay.

"I think it is possible," he replied. "I have to tell you that I have a very deep understanding of education and I have done this."

Peretz, who is leader of the religious Union of Right Wing Parties which is in coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, was then asked what advice he would give to a student who said he had homosexual tendencies.

"First of all I hugged him," he said. "I said very warm things. I said to him 'let's think, let's learn, let's contemplate.'

"The objective is that he first of all will understand himself better. And then he will decide. I give him the facts and at this point I am leaving you and now you decide."

The comments prompted a swift rebuke from Netanyahu, who tweeted: "The things that the Minister of Education said about the gay community are unacceptable to me and don't reflect the positions of the government which I head. I spoke this evening with Rabbi Rafi Peretz and cleared up these points and emphasize that the education system in Israel will continue to accept all the boys and girls as they are with no difference regarding their sexual orientation."

Barrage of criticism

Peretz later attempted to clarify his initial comments, saying he did not suggest it was necessary to send children for conversion therapy, and that the ministry of education under his leadership will continue to accept all Israeli children without discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

The leader of the opposition Meretz Party, Nitzan Horowitz, responded to the initial Peretz comments by tweeting: "You are not the Minister of Education, you are the Minister of Darkness."

Horowitz was elected last month to the party's leadership, becoming the first openly gay man to head an Israeli political party.

His tweet also said: "'Conversion therapy'? You are the Minister of Education and you are proud of this? This is a dangerous thing that causes young people to be in difficult positions and can lead them to suicide. This is the judgement of people's souls. What are you proud of? That you wiped out the identity of young kids? That you forced them to feel they are sick?"

Adding to the chorus of political condemnation, Israel's first openly gay minister, Justice Minister Amir Ohana, issued a statement saying the Likud government would not tolerate conversion therapy. "This will not happen," he said.

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