Netanyahu loyalist Amir Ohana becomes Knesset speaker, 1st openly LGBTQ MK to hold role

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

New Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (Likud) addresses the House after being elected by fellow MKs, December 29, 2022 (Knesset channel screenshot)
New Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (Likud) addresses the House after being elected by fellow MKs, December 29, 2022 (Knesset channel screenshot)

Shortly before the confidence vote to inaugurate Israel’s 37th government, the Knesset elects Likud MK Amir Ohana as its next speaker.

A former justice minister and public security minister in past governments, Ohana is the Knesset’s first openly gay speaker.

He thanks Netanyahu for his “courage and trust” in advancing his candidacy, and says he and Netanyahu have “traveled a long way together” and “will, with God’s help, continue further.”

He thanks his parents — who are in the gallery — for accepting him “for who I am.”

And he thanks his partner, Alon Haddad, “the second half of my life for almost 18 years,” who is also in the gallery with their children.

Alon Haddad, partner of new Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, and their children listen to Ohana’s speech from the Knesset gallery, December 29, 2022 (Knesset channel screenshot)

Ohana says that the incoming coalition won’t infringe upon LGBTQ rights.

Directing the comments to his family, he says “this Knesset, under the leadership of this speaker, won’t hurt them or any other family, period.”

Several of Likud’s far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners — including the openly homophobic Noam party — have expressed anti-LGBTQ positions, including declared plans to return now-banned conversion therapy, and changing governmental forms to say “mother” and “father” instead of gender-neutral “parent.”

Ohana’s selection was clinched yesterday, when Likud faction members chose him in an internal vote to succeed outgoing speaker Yariv Levin, who held the post in an interim role for only two weeks.

Levin, a former Knesset speaker and a trusted Netanyahu ally, took up the post to oversee a three-part legislative blitz preceding the swearing-in, and vacated the role earlier today to become justice minister.

One of the legislature’s most strategic positions, the Knesset speaker holds considerable influence over legislative agenda and pace, as well as running legislative sessions and maintaining decorum in the plenum.

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