19:11 GMT23 June 2021
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    Earlier, Israel's public broadcaster leaked details of an alleged draft agreement in which the prime minister had agreed to support a legal measure by a religious party on the separation of men and women in public places in exchange for support in forming a coalition government.

    Blue & White Alliance co-chairman Yair Lapid has blasted an agreement he says will import Iran-style gender segregation into Israel, and accused the PM of "surrendering" to the religious right.

    "The fact that Bibi surrendered to the demands of United Torah Judaism to introduce a law on segregating men and women in public spaces is nothing short of madness", Lapid tweeted.

    "The man who has been speaking out against Iran for 20 years now wants to import it", the lawmaker added, referring to the Islamic Republic's stringent segregation of many of its public spaces based on gender.

    On Monday, Israel's KAN broadcaster reported that the party United Torah Judaism had hinted that it would enter into a coalition with Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud in exchange for support in passing a law allowing the separation of men and women in public places. The law would also reportedly make it illegal for individuals to file lawsuits against the municipal organisers of segregated events.

    Likud denied that any sort of deal had been finalised, saying the proposal was merely be considered to placate United Torah Judaism and other conservative parties, including Shas and the United Right.

    Yisrael Beytenu, the party of former Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, similarly attacked Likud and Netanyahu, with the party issuing a statement noting that "the cancellation of the prohibition on gender segregation is another step in transforming the State of Israel into a Halacha (religious law) state".

    On Monday, Netanyahu assured Israelis that the country would not become a religious state following United Right's suggestion that the country should revert to being run as "in the days of King David" and "restore the Torah justice system".

    Lapid's attempt to associate the prime minister with Iran was undoubtedly meant as a serious insult, due to Netanyahu's regular accusations of Tehran being a repressive society with aggressive intentions against Israel. Relations between the two countries have hit a new low over the past year amid Israel's avid support for the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

    Iran began introducing gender segregation in public places after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Public spaces, including bakeries, concerts and sporting events as well as public transportation, banks and ski resorts have specially designated areas to separate men and women.


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    public space, religious party, Segregation, proposal, leak, religion, United Torah Judaism, Likud party, Yair Lapid, Iran, Israel
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