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The Knesset yesterday approved by a majority of 20 votes two bills designed to thwart the holding of the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem.

The bills passed their preliminary reading because the coalition allowed its faction members to vote their conscience.

The bills, proposed by MK Eliahu Gabbay (National Union-National Religious Party) and MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), were supported by lawmakers from Kadima, the Pensioners and Yisrael Beiteinu. "The freedom to vote their conscience was part of a deal with Shas and others to placate Shas ahead of the presidential election," MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) said.

The bill, an amendment to the Basic Law on Jerusalem, will probably not move ahead before June 21, the date set for the parade.

"The prime minister does not believe that Jerusalem is the natural place for a Gay Pride parade because of the special sensitivity of the city, but he believes there is no place for limiting these issues by law," the Prime Minister's Bureau said.

Jerusalem City Councilman Saar Netanel, a leader of the gay community in the capital, said the march would take place in any case.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Israel Religious Action Center said that "the government is selling the basic rights of citizens in exchange for political survival."