Xavier Bettel (DP), here with Benjamin Netanyahu when he became the first Luxembourg prime minister to visit Israel in 2016, turned down an invitation because of a statement on gay conversion therapy by the country’s education minister that was roundly criticised by Netanyahu and other political and community leaders.
Photo: SIP/Charles Caratini
Israel’s gay justice minister Amir Ohana asked why the Luxembourg prime minister did not take a similar stance with Iran.
Xavier Bettel’s decision not to attend a farewell dinner for Simona Frankel, the Israeli ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, on Monday has drawn support and criticism.
Reports in the Israeli and Luxembourg press suggest the prime minister declined the invitation to the dinner in Brussels because of the support for gay conversion therapy by Israeli education minister Rafi Peretz. The reports suggest that Bettel did tell Frankel that he respects her personally. She is due to be replaced by foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the country’s Channel 12 broadcaster cited guests at the event saying Bettel’s last-minute cancellation made for an awkward gathering. It reports that Bettel’s chair at the head of the table remained unoccupied at the dinner. But Bettel received plenty of support for his stance on social media.
Peretz’s comments that he had referred students to gay conversion treatment and saw it was “possible” to change their sexual orientation were criticised by Israeli politicians across the spectrum. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the remarks “unacceptable to me and do not reflect the position of the government under my leadership.”
Peretz later said his comments had been distorted and specified that they referred to cases of students who had asked for guidance and requested a referral to a professional. “I did not say I support conversion therapy,” he was cited as saying.
On Tuesday Israel’s justice minister, Amir Ohana, who is also gay, wondered why Bettel did not take such an approach with the leaders of Iran, the Times of Israel reported. Ohana posted a photo of Bettel shaking hands with Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and asked if the Luxembourg premier was “aware of how conversion therapy looks like in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”