(MENAFN - AFP) Israel's education minister backtracked Tuesday on his earlier comments endorsing controversial therapy to convert gays to heterosexuality, following protests and demands for his sacking.
In a letter to school principals in Tel Aviv, Rafi Peretz said he had never "offered conversion therapy" to any of the students he had educated before entering politics.
"I know conversion therapy is wrong and severe, that's my unequivocal stance," he wrote.
"I realise it's an invasive treatment that doesn't suit human nature, causes suffering more than help, and can endanger lives by avoidable suicide."
In an interview with Channel 12 television broadcast on Saturday, Peretz was asked if he was in favour of conversion therapy and if he thought they could change a gay person.
"I think you can, I think you can," he said. "I can tell you that I have a deep knowledge of education, and I have done it too."
The remarks by Peretz, a rabbi and head of the Union of Right Wing Parties appointed minister last month, were condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Such comments were "unacceptable and do not reflect the stance of the government," the premier said.
Members of the opposition called for Peretz to be fired and hundreds of people demonstrated against him.
Gay conversion therapy has been widely found, including by Israel's health ministry, to be unscientific and potentially damaging to young people.
In his Tuesday letter, Peretz, who had also served as chief rabbi of the Israeli army, said his interview had misconstrued his stance on the issue.
"I never thought, and certainly haven't said, that this kind of therapy should be part of the educational system, and certainly have no intention of doing so," he wrote.