Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has previously boasted of being a “proud homophobe,” on Wednesday knocked the IDF’s reported efforts to increase its integration of transgender soldiers.
In slamming the measures, he appeared to be mockingly referencing news from earlier in the day that a soldier had been hospitalized after suffering heatstroke during an exercise.
“There is no doubt that this ‘achievement’ will be a decisive contribution to the IDF’s resilience and ability to meet the security challenges of the State of Israel,” the right-wing minister wrote in response to a report by the Ynet news outlet that the IDF is making adjustments to accommodate dozens of transgender soldiers.
“Next time when the IDF comes to ask for an increase to the defense budget, we should ask how much these impressive ‘achievements’ cost us. I think there is a mistake — someone at the top of the IDF has heatstroke,” Smotrich tweeted.
MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano of the Blue and White party responded to the minister, saying: “You are a regressive little homophobe. Just days before [the Jewish mourning day of] Tisha B’Av, you make great efforts to divide and incite us from within. You are a disgrace to the Israeli government and a shame to Judaism.”
According to the Ynet report, the IDF is seeing an increase in the number of soldiers who transition during or before their service, and there are now dozens of transgender soldiers.
A senior officer told the outlet that the military is now making adjustments to accommodate those soldiers, including extra training for officers and working to ensure appropriate accommodation and showers for transgender troops.
Smotrich, who once organized an anti-LGBT “pride” march featuring farm animals, is a member of the religious United Right party.
In July, Education Minister Rafi Peretz, a prominent former chief rabbi of the Israeli army and member of Smotrich’s party, caused an uproar by indicating support for gay conversion therapy, a controversial process that purports to help gay people “convert” to heterosexuality. The process has been panned by psychologists as dangerous and has been linked to increases in suicide rates among those who undergo it.
Following the public backlash to Peretz’s remarks, Smotrich defended Peretz’s comments against what he termed a “media lynching” of the education minister.
Peretz later walked back the comments.
In 2016, Smotrich caused uproar when he gave an interview in which he said LGBT people “control the media,” claiming that mainstream support for the community stems from the coverage, as well as condemning a “witch hunt” against those opposed to gay marriage.
In 2017, he called on rabbis and teachers to delay their students’ enlistment into the army to protest what he labeled the “radical feminist” agenda which he said was leading to more mixed-gender activities in the armed forces and was putting “equality above victory.”
On Monday, Smotrich spoke out in favor of an Israel governed by religious law, echoing controversial comments he has made in the past. In early June while he was angling to replace Ayelet Shaked as justice minister, he said that the Israeli justice system should adhere to religious Jewish law and asserted that the country should aspire to run itself as “in the days of King David.”