“I support surrogate parenthood for the LGBT community but at this moment we don’t have a coalition majority to pass such legislation. When we do, we will do so,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday at the Knesset about a bill he had opposed. His explanation was harshly criticized by the opposition and gay activists.
“I’ve asked MK Amir Ohana to draw up a bill we could get coalition partners to pass, which we could put before the Ministerial Committee on Legislation next month,” he added. “I heard your comments and your stories, and we identified with your desire to have children, to raise a family. That’s what you want and that’s what I want, too.”
Netanyahu had to participate in the debate after lawmakers gathered a requisite 40 signatures for him to do so. The debate took place a short time after the Knesset rejected two opposition bills to include the LGBT community in surrogacy legislation.
“It’s not an issue of right or left but rather one of humanity,” Netanyahu said. “My wife and I have often helped members of the LGBT community. In 2015 we did a lot on behalf of those who were stuck after the earthquake in Nepal, with the aim of bringing them all safely to Israel.”
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“I ask you, prime minister, look me in the eye and tell me I couldn’t be a good enough father,” said MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor), who is gay. “For 22 years thousands of people in the country have realized their dream to become parents. Hundreds of thousands of others have been given a life sentence to loneliness and discrimination. You made a promise and today the legislation was thwarted yet another time. We ask for the acceptance of a simple principle, that a human being is a human being,” Shmuli said. “We ask, demand and expect the right steps to be taken to adopt equality when it comes to surrogacy rights and in adoption. In the end it’s all in your hands.”
Chen Arieli, head of the Association for LGBT Rights, said, “The prime minister saw it fitting to spell out clearly that he has no real intentions of permitting equal LGBT parenthood in Israel, and he’s blamed this on the coalition. The prime minister is hiding behind excuses instead of showing leadership to muster a majority in the Knesset, with the help of the LGBT community and Knesset factions. In clear words he calls upon the LGBT community not to support this coalition, in clear words he admits that the coalition controls him and that it’s not him who’s running the country. We won’t be silenced against a government that stands for discrimination.”
Opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said during the debate that “Israel has citizens, human beings, who want to be parents and have a family. But what you’re telling them with each vote and this vote is let them keep on wanting. You tried to escape the debate but you weren’t permitted to do so. People asked on your behalf a number of times not to hold the debate today. The time has come for you to look them in the eye and explain to them why they may not be parents.
“You knew that the same-gender issue isn’t a natural fit for your natural coalition partners,” Livni continued. “Your choice is always political, survival always wins. It’s wonderful to use a community as a prop to talk about how liberal Israel is. But your government represents the exact opposite of liberality.”
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid quoted Netanyahu’s promise to pass legislation, and said, “It’s not even against your values,” Lapid said. “But in your value system there’s one thing beyond the right of people to become parents, and that is your right to be prime minister. In the end there’s not a single ideological bone left in your body. It’s all about the politics.”