Israel’s education minister, Rafi Peretz, has backed down from his professed support for gay conversion therapy, saying Tuesday it is illegitimate and severe.

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Peretz wrote in a letter to school principals that his opposition to the discredited procedure is “unambiguous.”

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“I realize it’s an intrusive treatment that doesn’t suit human nature, causes suffering more than help, and can endanger lives by avoidable suicide,” he wrote.

But in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 television broadcast Saturday, Peretz said he thinks it is possible to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals and said he has been involved in it.

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Hundreds of Israelis protested against Peretz and the opposition demanded he be fired. A number of teachers threatened to go on strike.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned Peretz’s comments, saying they are “unacceptable and do not reflect the stance of the government.” 

Peretz says his comments on television were misconstrued.

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