Far-right MK Avi Maoz, the head and sole representative of the anti-LGBTQ Noam party, has said he is filled with “embarrassment and pain” over the prominence of openly gay Knesset speaker Amir Ohana and his spouse at official state ceremonies for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day and Independence day.
In a letter to party supporters Thursday, Maoz said he was upset that Ohana and his husband Alon Hadad were presented “to the eyes of the entire world” at the events as “‘the Knesset speaker and his husband,’ as if this were an authentic and acceptable Jewish norm.”
The proudly homophobic legislator expressed regret over his role in appointing the speaker when the government was formed.
“Admittedly, my vote in favor of his appointment was in fulfillment of the coalition’s commitment to supporting the speaker presented by Likud, but I did not realize that this appointment would become a symbol and example of this phenomenon,” Maoz wrote, apparently referencing single-sex couples.
He added that he now regretted not leaving the Knesset plenary to protest the vote on Ohana as speaker.
“One cannot agree, including through silence or lack of protest, to audacious indoctrination that creates a new public stance celebrating a new family model and harming our basic values as the nation of God and as a Jewish state,” Maoz said, and vowed he would speak out on the matter from now on.
Ohana is the first openly gay person to hold the key role of Knesset speaker.
Maoz, who initially served as deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of a “Jewish identity” unit, quit the government in late February, while remaining in the coalition, writing in a letter of resignation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was “shocked to find there was no serious intention of honoring the coalition deal” giving him powers to establish “Jewish identity” programs in a new Jewish National Identity office.
But last week, the lawmaker told the Kikar HaShabbat Haredi news site that “in the coming few weeks, it is possible that I will return to my post, with all the powers” he was promised.
“There are negotiations, and they have advanced quite a bit, to my satisfaction. We still need to finalize some details… and I very much hope this will work out and I’ll return to my role,” he said.
Since quitting his ministerial role, Maoz has continued backing the hardline coalition, made up of right-wing, far-right, and ultra-Orthodox factions, as a Knesset member.
The MK, an outspoken homophobe who has made misogynistic statements about women’s role in society and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, was promised 20 employees for his office, along with NIS 440 million ($125 million) over its first two years.
He was also slated, as part of the coalition deal, to be given control over an Education Ministry department that oversees external programming vendors for public schools. The appointment was met with public outrage and condemnations from opposition MKs, parents and some local authorities. That unit currently remains under the purview of the Education Ministry.
During his brief time in his role, Maoz tried and failed to reintroduce the labels “father” and “mother” on official government ministry forms and do away with the more progressive “parent 1” and “parent 2” introduced by the previous coalition.
He also tried to amend state policy toward an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. In February, the government told the High Court of Justice that it still plans to renovate the section marked for non-Orthodox prayer.
Maoz decried the position, writing in his resignation letter to Netanyahu that he sought “to preserve the sanctity of the Western Wall and stop the actions to divide it.”
Egalitarian prayer, along with progressive parentage labels, are part of what Maoz called “procedures that are concerned with changing our basic concepts, as the people of Israel and the Jewish family.”
Since first bursting onto the political scene in 2019, the Noam party’s campaign has focused on preserving a heteronormative family structure.
Along with the external educational programming unit, Maoz was promised control over Nativ, the organization responsible for processing Jewish immigration from former Soviet states. This decision was also controversial, as Maoz supports limiting the criteria for who is eligible to immigrate to Israel.
According to Jewish law, Judaism is passed on through the mother, although — strictly for immigration purposes — Israeli law recognizes two generations of patrilineal descent. Maoz supports tightening the Law of Return and has said he wanted to eliminate the so-called “grandchildren clause,” under which many former Soviet Jews immigrate.
Maoz has also said he would create a department of “Consciousness of the Jewish State” under the Jewish National Identity office, but the unit’s mandate and responsibilities were never made clear.
Carrie Keller Lynn contributed to this report.