ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Likud on back foot as dozens of towns say won’t let anti-LGBT MK dictate education

Netanyahu said planning to tightly control Avi Maoz’s programming after public outcry; Lapid launches hotline to help schools avoid far-rightist’s ‘dark, homophobic doctrine’

MK Avi Maoz, left, and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu after signing a coalition deal on November 27, 2022. (Courtesy, Likud)
MK Avi Maoz, left, and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu after signing a coalition deal on November 27, 2022. (Courtesy, Likud)

More than 50 municipalities have joined protests against presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to transfer control of external programming at schools to far-right MK Avi Maoz, whose Noam party holds homophobic and anti-pluralistic views.

Likud was reportedly caught off guard by the intense backlash to Maoz’s appointment. Channel 12 reported Saturday, without citing sources, that Netanyahu plans to be personally involved in overseeing the content Maoz seeks to bring to schools and will have “final say” — in an apparent bid to calm concerned educators.

Likud MK Galit Distel Atbaryan also told the network that Maoz won’t be able to do anything without Netanyahu’s permission.

Netanyahu this week agreed to give Maoz, the sole lawmaker in the fringe Noam party, an annual budget of at least NIS 100 million ($29 million), as well as over a dozen staffers, as a deputy minister at the helm of a new “national Jewish identity” government agency within the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to the agreement, the Education Ministry unit responsible for external teaching and partnerships will be placed under Maoz’s control, giving him authority over non-official bodies enlisted to teach or lecture at schools.

That aspect of the deal in particular has caused a public uproar among opponents of Noam’s agenda and has led many local leaders to talk of rebellion against any attempt to bring an extreme agenda into schools. Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid has urged local authorities to oppose extremist content pushed by Maoz.

Channel 12 news reported that the unit has an approximate NIS 2 billion ($590 million) budget for educational programming.

“We’re talking about 3,000 programs that deal with the core of education in the education system — history, civics, reducing inequality and tolerance,” a former director-general of the Education Ministry, Shmuel Abuav, told the network.

MK Avi Maoz attends a discussion in the Knesset,on November 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Over 50 local authorities have said they will not allow Maoz to dictate their educational curricula, and some 200 school principals sent Netanyahu a letter in protest.

“We won’t allow dark views to dictate the agenda,” the Ynet news site quoted the principals as writing.

Lapid on Saturday announced the launch of a hotline for parents opposed to “the extreme and dangerous content” of Maoz. He urged parents to contact local authorities and schools to ensure “liberal content” is taught in place of “the dark, homophobic, nationalistic and violent doctrine” of Noam.

He added that the hotline being launched by his Yesh Atid party will be for “gathering information regarding the attempts to insert dark content into the education system,” as well as for providing legal advice to parents.

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Friday Channel 12 cited unnamed officials in Likud as saying giving Maoz the portfolio had been a serious blunder during coalition negotiations.

The sources said negotiators had not realized the importance nor the scope of the education division that he had demanded.

“We did not know that we gave him the keys and now it is too late to reverse,” the report quoted the source as saying, calling it a “double catastrophe.”

The Likud leader has until December 11 to form a government, though he can request a 14-day extension if he fails to do so in time.

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