In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 television that aired Saturday night, Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz stated his support for conversion therapy for young homosexuals, saying that he has personal experience with the practice and believes that it is possible for those with gay tendencies to overcome them.

His remarks were widely criticized, despite the clarification he issued just hours after the interview aired.

Peretz, former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces and leader of the Jewish Home Party, told Channel 12 news that “I respect every person, whoever they are.”

“As a rabbi in Israel, I admit our Bible says other things [about homosexuals]. But this doesn’t mean I’m giving them grades,” he said.

“I have a very deep understanding” of conversion therapy, Peretz told the interviewer, adding that he had conducted conversion therapy sessions. When asked if it is possible to help a person who wishes to become heterosexual to put aside his homosexual inclination, he said, “I think it is possible.”

Two hours after the interview, Peretz issued a clarification, saying that he was not suggesting anyone send their children to conversion therapy.

Insisting that his ministry would continue to accept all Israeli children, he said that his career in education had put him in personal contact with many students “terribly distressed over their sexual orientation and [who] chose to turn to professionals to change their orientation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement distancing himself from Peretz’s comments, saying they “are unacceptable to me and do not reflect the position of the government under my leadership.”

Among numerous vocal critics of Peretz’s remarks was Meretz chairman and homosexual Nitzan Horowitz, who blasted Peretz, saying, “You’re not minister of education, you’re minister of darkness.” Labor Party leader Amir Peretz said the statements were “neither humane nor Jewish.”

This is the second controversy involving Peretz in recent weeks. The new education minister set off another debate when he commented at a July 1 Cabinet meeting that the high Jewish intermarriage rate in the United States is “like a second Holocaust,” and that the Jewish people had “lost six million people” in the past 70 years due to intermarriage.