Israel finance minister says he's a 'fascist homophobe' but 'won't stone gays'

Israel finance minister says he's a 'fascist homophobe' but 'won't stone gays'
Israel's new cabinet includes a range of extremist politicians who have sought to entrench far-right power in the country.
2 min read
16 January, 2023
Smotrich's appointment as a minister has caused outrage inside and outside the country [Getty]

Israel's new far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has allegedly made anti-LGBTQ comments during a recorded interview with an Israeli businessman.

In the recording, Smotrich is reportedly heard saying "I'm a fascist homophobe, but... I won't stone gays".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition deal, which saw far-right politicians appointed as ministers, has led to concerns of a possible crackdown on LGBTQ and women's rights in Israel, along with a much greater fear of the violent suppression of Palestinians.

This includes the killing of 14 Palestinians so far this year, after an already bloody 2022 in the occupied West Bank.

"A Sephardi or a traditional Jew, do you think he (the businessman) cares about gays? He couldn’t care less. He says 'do you think I care that you [Smotrich] are against them?'" he said in the recording, according to Haaretz.

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He also said he was the "only one", likely referring to Israeli politicians, who didn't support the United Arab List, an Islamist Palestinian party that was widely denounced for going into a coalition government with former Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Smotrich, who lives in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, has long expanded for further restricting the rights of Palestinians and annexing Palestinian land.

His colleague Itamar Ben-Gvir's politics are so extreme that he was not conscripted into the Israeli army.

Lapid has condemned the recording of Smotrich and Netanyahu's judgment in aligning with the extremist Israeli politicians.

"This reminds us how weak Netanyahu is and how dangerous it is that he’s kept captive by extremists. It's not a question of left or right, and it’s not a question of the Likud or Yesh Atid [parties]. The major question is whether you love your fellow man or hate him," he tweeted.

In another sign of Israel's political shift to the far-right, the cabinet also approved the transfer of education ministry powers to a deputy minister from the one-man, anti-LGBTQ Noam Party.

Deputy Minister Avi Maoz, who said he has set out to oppose liberal social reforms in Israeli society, is set to oversee external programming leading to outrage from LGBTQ groups.