Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that he opposes same-sex marriage.
- Netanyahu calls urgent meeting with West Bank settlement mayors
- Poll: Habayit Hayehudi rises to 15 Knesset seats, as Labor slides to 16
- Christianity, Judaism and Islam need to break the gay taboo
In an answer to a question from the audience of students he was addressing, Bennett said, "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, who is a major in the Israel Defense Forces reserves, added, "I had a soldier in the reserves who came out. We joked about him, but it was in good fun. It was fine."
Bennett's record on the issue is revealing. Before Habayit Hayehudi held its primary, he was asked by representatives of an organization of gay Orthodox men, Kamocha, about his attitude toward the gay community. Three other candidates, Zevulun Orlev, Uri Orbach and Nissan Slomiansky, gave full and thoughtful answers. Bennett first evaded the question and then refused to respond.
Another group of gay Orthodox men, Havruta, asked for a meeting with Bennett, but was turned down with the explanation, "We will not agree to meet with said group as a group. And in general, there are more important issues for the people of Israel at this time."
Bennett has in the past used the issue of homosexuality to goad Hamas. During last month's military operation of the Gaza Strip, he told CNN that the Palestinians chose to make Gaza a Taliban state after Israel evacuated it, with no rights for women and homosexuals.
Habayit Hayehudi responded: "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."