MK Uri Orbach
MK Uri OrbachIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Minister for Senior Citizens, Uri Orbach, of the Bayit Yehudi religious-Zionist (Jewish Home) party, accused his party's secularist coalition partner Yesh Atid on Tuesday of going overboard with a wave of liberal legislation.

"It's cold outside, but the political system is hot and stormy,” wrote Orbach in an email to supporters. “The members of Yesh Atid are currently in a liberal ecstasy of religion-and-state laws, mostly as pertains to recognition of, and the rights of, same-sex couples.”

Minister Orbach admits that Jewish Home's position is not a popular one in the media, but insists: “Financial rights can be accorded to the individual, regardless of his sexual orientation, but we will not agree to a recognition of same-sex couples as a family.”

The Jewish Home recently blocked, at the last minute, an attempt by Yesh Atid to pass legislation granting same-sex parents the same tax breaks as normative couples, and also recognizing them as being a married family. It said that it would agree to the tax break, but not to the recognition. This was met by a blistering personal attack on the Jewish Home's MK Ayelet Shaked, who presented Jewish Home's position in the Knesset. Another reason for the onslaught appears to be the fact that Shaked is a secular woman and thus seen as betraying the liberal agenda.

"We have a different outlook about the family in Israel and we have the right to fight for Israel's recognition of the classic family model and giving it preference,” the minister explained.

Orbach said that there is no reason to be ashamed of the traditional conservative position and says it needs to be presented without hurting others. “I will add that the liberal attack is tainted with populism...the HMOs are on the brink of collapse and the first to be hurt will be the elderly. The Health Minister and the Finance Minister, both from the same party, are busy all day launching assorted surrogate motherhood bills for same sex couples, instead of focusing their entire political strength in solving the crisis that threatens the lives of hundreds of people.”

Orbach added that he understands that every party has its own “little” laws that it holds important, “but the liberal agenda is so misguided, twisted and self-righteous that it can make a person crazy... I am working to calm the spirits and find a formula that will enable us to be partners in the same coalition.”

"Yes, being partners is better than being brothers,” he adds – a humorous reference to the term “brothers” that is often used with regard to the pact between Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid. 

Orbach's statement is one of the first signs that Israel is developing a conservative political movement of its own. Until now, vocal opposition to liberal legislation on matters of family has largely been confined to hareidi parties, which tend not to engage in public dialogue over issues like same-sex marriage. Religious-Zionist parties were usually more concerned with matters that more directly concern the religious-Zionist public, and with the settlement enterprise. It remains to be seen, however, whether Jewish Home will indeed put up a meaningful fight for family values, which are, as Orbach noted, very unpopular in the media.