Opinion: Rabbi Rafi Peretz is a nice man, but he is also in possession of views far removed from mainstream Israeli society; and while his comments on ‘conversion therapy’ were justifiably condemned, not a peep was heard about his plan to annex the West Bank and deny Palestinians the right to vote

When the National Religious Party was formed in the middle of the last century, its founder Moshe Shapira had the political sense to understand that though it was a party for religious voters, it must be kept free of rabbinical intervention.

Rabbis talk too much, pontificate too much and are far too extreme, was the prevalent thought. They should remain in the yeshivas and the synagogues.

Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz (Photo: AFP)
Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz (Photo: AFP)


The NRP changed this historical path in 1988 when it chose a rabbi as its political leader. A nice man, open, fair and accommodating, but when he stooped to kiss the hand of the chief rabbi of the time, everything changed.

Evacuating the synagogue at the Gaza settlement of Netzarim, August 2005  (Photo: Reuters)
Evacuating the synagogue at the Gaza settlement of Netzarim, August 2005 (Photo: Reuters)

Rabbi Rafi Peretz is also a nice man. He headed a yeshiva in Atzmona, a settlement Israel pulled out off when it withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Peretz chose to lead his students from their homes quietly, accepting the government’s decision with civic responsibility, unlike his more extreme neighbors who resisted the move.

That conduct prompted the military to offer him the position of chief rabbi of the IDF.

Peretz found himself in politics after the Jewish Home leadership of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Sheked walked out on the party before the April elections.

In an effort to keep voters from following their former leaders, an alliance was formed with parties further to the right thereby creating a technical bloc.

This three-sided union included three streams from the National Religious sphere: Peretz’s Jewish Home, which is nationalist; Tekuma, led by Bezalel Smotrich, which is radical; and Otzma Yehudit led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, which is extreme. Ultimately, this union created an extreme, radical nationalist force.

Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich in March (Photo)
Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich in March (Photo)


When interviewed on Saturday, Peretz spoke openly about his views on matters of politics and religion.

He supports annexation of the entire West Bank he told his interviewer but without civil rights for the Palestinians living there. Only Jews will have the vote.

That is the definition of apartheid, he was challenged, and his response was “its’ complicated.”

Peretz also spoke freely about his views on homosexuality, claiming “conversion treatment” can cure the ill. When the inevitable outcry followed, the rabbi explained that he, the current education minister, will not send schoolkids to such treatment. He will accept all students no matter what their sexual orientation.

I believe him. I don’t think he would force treatment on anybody. Even if he wanted to, the Supreme Court would prevent it. As long as we still have the court, that is.

But the more troubling question remains how can such an ignorant man with views so far removed from main-tream Israeli society be the minister of education?

Ehud Barak joins a protest in Tel Aviv over Rafi Peretz's comments on 'conversion therapy' (Photo: AFP)
Ehud Barak joins a protest in Tel Aviv over Rafi Peretz’s comments on ‘conversion therapy’ (Photo: AFP)


“My bible teaches me other things,” Peretz said when in the interview. It does. That is why he belongs in a yeshiva and not in the cabinet.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to push back on the conversion therapy remarks. He has gay voters after all, and a gay justice minister.

But not a word of protest was said about Peretz’s annexation program; so while we can expect to have an apartheid state that prevents millions from voting, at least it won’t be homophobic.

As reported by Ynetnews