Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett on Thursday evening called on Israelis to vote for his party because “we can't be wusses in the Middle East,” and because a large nationalist bloc will not have to include Labor's Tzipi Livni in its coalition.
He was summoned to Channel 2's studio to reply to liberal attacks on the Jewish Home after the party produced a short video of candidates for the party's primaries, stating their positions on gay marriage in a few words. Virtually all of them were firmly opposed to the concept.
Bennett said that Jewish Home, despite having secular candidates and increasingly courting the secular vote, is a religious party and therefore is opposed to recognizing homosexual marriage as it is forbidden by Judaism.
"I love the people of Israel – all of them, including homosexuals, I served with them and I fought alongside them and for them,” he said.
However, he explained “I have a kippah on my head. Formal Judaism does not recognize same-sex marriage, just as you cannot pass a law that eating meat with milk is kosher. What did we do in the last Knesset? We were pragmatic. We said – no to formal recognition, yes to rights.”
The comment refers to a law giving same-sex couples equal tax breaks which Bennett voted for even as his fellow party members abstained, letting it pass. The vote followed a compromise by Jewish Home giving same-sex couples equal benefits but not through official recognition in the legislation, sparing Jewish Home from being perceived as officially condoning same-sex marriage.
Earlier in the day MK Tzipi Livni (Labor) reacted to the Jewish Home's video and said: “Today, at long last, the Jewish Home party has come out of the closet and exposed its truth: a benighted, homophobic, messianic party.”
Some lesbian activists crashed an event featuring Jewish Home's MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan on Thursday to protest the video on gay marriage.
On a different topic, Bennett opined that the fierce attacks he has been enduring in the last few days – including accusations that he was somehow to blame for civilian deaths in Lebanon in 1996 – were the result of his party's growing strength in the polls.
“Why is this happening? Because I am a right-winger, because I oppose a Palestinian state and we are obviously getting stronger,” he stated.