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4 Jun, 2019 10:45

‘Nothing short of madness’: Netanyahu slammed for gender segregation offer to ultra-Orthodox parties

‘Nothing short of madness’: Netanyahu slammed for gender segregation offer to ultra-Orthodox parties

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has faced fresh accusations that he is pandering to Israel’s religious right, following reports he was prepared to back gender segregation in public spaces in return for their coalition support.

Yair Lapid, a lawmaker with the Blue and White political alliance, tweeted Tuesday that Netanyahu had “surrendered to the demands” of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party and blasted the proposed segregation law as “nothing short of madness.” Lapid added that by aligning with Israel’s ultra-Orthodox faction, the prime minister risked importing the same type of theocracy that he had spent 20 years speaking-out against in Iran.

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Lapid’s comments come after Netanyahu’s draft offer to the UTJ was leaked on Monday. In return for coalition backing, Netanyahu had offered the religious party support to amend Israeli law “in such a way that it will be permissible to provide public services, public study sessions and public events in which men and women are separated.” The offer added that this gender separation “will not constitute discrimination” under Israeli law.

The leak has also angered members of the Yisrael Beytenu party, headed by Netanyahu’s former coalition ally, ex defense minister Avigdor Lieberman. The party said Netanyahu’s Likud party had “yielded to all the Haredi demands in the coalition negotiations.”

Lieberman’s support had been necessary for Netanyahu to cobble together a working coalition of right-wing and Orthodox parties following April’s elections. However, the talks broke down last week over disagreements between the secular Lieberman and religious parties over the exemption of ultra-Orthodox citizens from serving in Israel’s military.

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