'I can promise there will not be any anti-gay legislation'

Gay Likud MK defends Netanyahu’s push for inclusion of anti-LGBT Noam party in bloc

Amir Ohana says he doesn’t agree with ultra-conservative stance of right-wing ally, but that it is a price he is willing to pay to see his party form a coalition

Likud MK Amir Ohana votes at a Likud polling station during his parties primaries in Jerusalem on August 10, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Amir Ohana votes at a Likud polling station during his parties primaries in Jerusalem on August 10, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK Amir Ohana on Sunday defended party leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s push to get anti-LGBT party Noam into the Knesset in the next election, saying he was willing to give up some progress for the community, if it meant getting Likud back in power.

Netanyahu brokered a deal to see Noam join forces with the far-right Religious Zionism ahead of the election, with a view to avoid wasting right-wing votes, even though it would mean including the ultra-conservative homophobic faction in a possible coalition.

In a Sunday interview with Walla News, Ohana, who is openly gay, said he would like to see Noam as part of the next government, “because I hope that we’ll have enough seats to establish such a coalition.”

Ohana said he obviously does not agree with Noam MK Avi Maoz, currently the party’s only lawmaker, but he prefers him to Islamist party Ra’am’s anti-gay MK Waleed Taha, “because with Taha, there are other problems too, like his opposition to the idea of a Jewish state.”

Ohana acknowledged that a coalition including Noam would not be able to legislate same-sex marriage, which is currently not possible in Israel, but said it was a price he was willing to pay.

“I can promise that there will not be any anti-gay legislation, nothing that sends us back in time,” he vowed.

No matter what Noam may demand, “it won’t happen… I have some pull as well,” he argued.

MK Avi Maoz speaks during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

MK Eitan Ginzberg of the National Unity party, a key faction in the bloc opposing the Likud-led bloc, criticized Ohana for saying he would settle for no fresh anti-LGBT legislation, and warned that a government under Netanyahu that includes extremist parties would be “a danger” to the LGBT community.

“The fact that there won’t be any anti-LGBT legislation shouldn’t be a goal, but a basic premise,” said Ginzberg, who is also gay. “In 2022, the LGBT community is striving for full equal rights and not for maintaining the status quo.”

Opposition leader Netanyahu intervened at the last minute last week to successfully press the extremist anti-gay Noam party to combine with Religious Zionism to ensure it would not slip beneath the electoral threshold and waste right-wing votes come November 1.

Netanyahu needs at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset to form the next government.

Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg in the Knesset, Jerusalem on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Noam burst onto the political scene in 2019 with a series of provocative highway billboards and video ads saying slogan “Israel chooses to be normal.”

The party claims that the LGBT community has “forced its agenda” on the rest of Israeli society. A 2019 campaign video compared Reform Jews, left-wing activists, and gay rights advocates to Nazis and Palestinian suicide bombers, saying that all of them “want to destroy us.”

The party merged with Otzma Yehudit ahead of the September 2019 election, but failed to cross the threshold. It then ran independently ahead of the March 2020 election before dropping out days before the race.

Finally, it merged with Otzma Yehudit and Religious Zionism, under intense pressure from Netanyahu before the 2021 election, garnering enough votes for Maoz to become the first member of his party to enter the Knesset.

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