Not even two weeks have passed since the historic and moving victory in the High Court of Justice, and it turns out that some people are already trying to crudely trample the rights we achieved through hard work. As though it weren’t enough that for years the Knesset and the Israeli government showed contempt for us by permitting discrimination in access to surrogacy, now we’re seeing a new and delusionary draft bill to “overturn” the final ruling. The initiator: a senior lawmaker in the liberal national movement, Likud.
According to a report on Channel 13 News, and as he boasted on Twitter in its wake, Likud's Dr. Shlomo Kari believes that the High Court ruling, which was handed down unanimously by a panel of five Supreme Court justices headed by Chief Justice Esther Hayut, “will harm women who for medical reasons cannot conceive and need surrogacy, and now the supply won’t meet the demand created by same-sex couples.”
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Interesting. His honor “researched” the hypothetical consequences of the ruling on supply and demand, and offers a “solution” to the hypothetical problem, which is to sacrifice the very group that was legally humiliated and excluded until now. A less official reason cited in the report but omitted from the tweet is the political objective: “To challenge the [religious Islamic] United Arab List, which removed issues relating to the community’s rights from its coalition agreements.”
The first reason that was presented, let’s call it the “ideological” reason, is regrettable. It shows how far certain Likud members have distanced themselves from the movement’s basic principles. The second reason is an explosion of cynicism, and it’s hard to only blame the lawmaker who initiated it. Someone else should be taking responsibility: opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. These things are being done in his spirit, via his method, and in blatant and extreme contrast to his stated opinions on the subject.
Netanyahu stated on July 16, 2018, in a video clip that remains on his Twitter account: “Single mothers have a right to surrogacy, but single fathers have no such right; it’s simply unfair and we have to fix it. That’s why I told lawmaker Amir Ohana today at a Likud faction meeting that I’ll support an amendment he submits.”
How disappointed we were two days later, when Netanyahu ultimately voted against Ohana’s amendment, apparently due to pressure from the ultra-Orthodox factions. Then came another video clip, in which Netanyahu stated: “I’m totally consistent on surrogacy. I support surrogacy for both mothers and fathers. I told lawmaker Ohana that when he submits an amendment for fathers I’ll support it and then it will be for both fathers and mothers. That’s the right thing to do.”
If you aren’t convinced yet about his personal opinion, take his comment from December 19, 2018, when Netanyahu said in the Knesset plenum: “My basic opinion regarding surrogacy … It’s really not a matter of right and left. It’s first of all a personal and human issue … my wife and I have heard stories from many couples and from men, and we identified with their desire to bring children into the world and to start a family. That’s their wish and that’s my wish too. The simple truth is that I support it but as of now we don’t have the necessary majority in the coalition to pass the law. When we have the majority we’ll pass the legislation.”
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Like the previous government, the current one – in which the UAL opposed granting rights to the community – also proved incapable of amending the discriminatory law. But the work of the righteous is done by the High Court, and by a new health minister, Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz, who at a press conference with my partner Yoav and me, declared that he would follow the ruling in keeping with the six-month timetable that was set. I would expect that Likud, which no longer faces coalition constraints, could unanimously support this welcome change – both declaratively and if necessary through its vote – just like most coalition members are welcoming it.
Likud members have been given a golden opportunity to show who they really are, and on that basis to create new alliances with all of Israeli society, but apparently the endless nights of filibuster are wearing down their common sense. In such a case they would be better off taking sick leave, because in the name of pointless and foolish political haggling for its own sake, Likud members are willing to place themselves our parliament’s most extreme bench, contrary to Likud tradition, and that’s a shame. Now the responsibility to condemn and remove this shameful cloud lies with the opposition chairman. His job is to prevent this disgrace – silence is equivalent to consent and encouragement.
The writer is one of the petitioners in the Pinkas-Arad High Court case that ended with a final ruling this month. He is a member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa city council and holds the LGBTQ portfolio.