President Herzog promises to protect Israel’s minority groups

Speculation that law which forbids discrimination in the provision of services or goods will be amended in new coalition agreement

President Yitzhak Herzog has promised to protect the rights of minority groups in Israel after details emerged of measures being planned by Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government, which will be sworn in the coming days.

“A situation in which citizens in Israel feel threatened because of their identity or belief undermines the fundamental democratic values of the state of Israel,” he wrote. “The bigoted comments heard in recent days against the LGBT community and against different groups and sectors worry and disturb me a great deal.”

According to the coalition agreement signed between Mr Netanyahu’s Likud and the far-right Religious Zionist party (RZP) the law that forbids discrimination in the provision of services or the sale of goods will be amended to take into account someone’s religious beliefs.

RZP parliamentarian Orit Struck explained in a radio interview: “A doctor must not be forced to treat someone if this clashes with their religious beliefs.” Simha Rothman, another RZP Knesset member, suggested that an Orthodox hotel owner could opt not to host a group of gay men if that “clashes with his beliefs and offends his religious sensibilities”.


Mr Netanyahu made it clear that despite the coalition agreement he rejected the remarks.

“In the country that I will lead, there will not be a situation in which a person, whether an LGBTQ, an Arab, ultra-Orthodox or anyone else, will enter a hotel and not receive service; visit a doctor and not receive service. That did not happen in my 15 years as prime minister, and it will not happen now either.”

Israel’s Medical Association stressed that the Hippocratic Oath requires doctors to treat every patient regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation and colour.

Palestinians have also expressed concern over the policy guidelines of the incoming Israeli coalition and a possible “explosion”, warning the international community to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

The Palestinian Authority called on the international community, the US administration and the European Union to link their relationship with the Netanyahu government “to the extent of its commitment to international law, international legitimacy decisions and human rights principles.”

The Palestinian foreign affairs ministry said it views “with great seriousness” reports in the Israeli media regarding Mr Netanyahu’s “ill-fated agreements with his far-right fascist coalition partners”.

Specifically, the ministry expressed concern that Israel may now authorise West Bank settler outposts, introduce the death penalty for convicted terrorists and alter the status quo in Jerusalem and the holy places, particularly the Harm Al Sharif Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s old city, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians will confront Israeli policies with a “peaceful resistance” and action in international courts and forums.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem