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Israeli Doctors Reject Netanyahu Allies' Anti-LGBTQ Remarks

Allies of Benjamin Netanyahu are calling for a law to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people in hospitals and businesses.
Israel's Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu
Posted at 2:42 PM, Dec 27, 2022

Israel's largest medical center and health care workers from hospitals around the country have spoken out against remarks by allies of Benjamin Netanyahu calling for a law to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people in hospitals and businesses.

It was part of a broader blowback against remarks made this week by Religious Zionism politicians calling for legal discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Netanyahu's new government — the most religious and hard-line in Israel's history — is made up of ultra-Orthodox parties, an ultranationalist religious faction and his Likud party. It is to be sworn in on Thursday.

Earlier this week, two Netanyahu allies from the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party said that their faction seeks to change an anti-discrimination law in a way that would permit businesses and doctors to deny service to LGBTQ people on the basis of religious belief.

Orit Struck, a Religious Zionist lawmaker, said her party seeks a change to the country's anti-discrimination law that would include allowing religious health care providers to refuse to treat LGBTQ patients "so long as there are enough other doctors to provide care."

Sheba Medical Center released a video on Instagram of health care workers from around the country on Monday saying "we treat everyone." Similar statements were made by doctors and administrators at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa and Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

Netanyahu later rebuked Struck for her remarks, saying there would be no curtailing of LGBTQ rights under the new government.

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The uproar could be a sign of what lies ahead for Netanyahu and his new government. His partners are seeking widespread changes that could alienate large swaths of the Israeli public, raise the risk of conflict with the Palestinians and put Israel on a collision course with some of its closest supporters, including the United States and the American Jewish community.

Netanyahu has sought to portray himself as the responsible adult in the coalition and already issued a series of statements guaranteeing to protect the rights of LGBTQ people. But his partners hold great leverage because they support new legislation that could ultimately freeze or dismiss criminal charges against Netanyahu.

The long-time leader, who served 12 consecutive years before he was ousted last year, already has agreed to put a hard-line politician known for his anti-Arab views in charge of the national police force and put another hard-line settler leader in charge of West Bank settlement policies.

A third religious lawmaker who opposes LGBTQ rights has been given widespread authority over the national education system, and Netanyahu reportedly also has agreed to increase unpopular subsidies to ultra-Orthodox men who do not work or serve in the army.

Yated Neeman, a newspaper affiliated with one of the ultra-Orthodox parties in Netanyahu's coalition, published an editorial against the Religious Zionism politicians, saying they were "defaming Judaism worldwide" and branding the future government as "one that persecutes Arabs, minorities and discriminates against people on the basis of religion and more."

Several Israeli companies said they would not work with businesses that discriminate against clients for religious reasons.

Bank Discount, Israel's third largest bank, said Monday that its board decided that it "would not grant credit to businesses or bodies that discriminate against clients on the basis of religion, race, sex or sexual orientation."

Wiz, an Israeli cybersecurity company, expressed "grave concern" over Religious Zionism politicians' remarks and said it would require companies hiring its services to commit not to discriminate against its clients.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.