Netanyahu meets with LGBT leaders for first time in 10 years

Activists slam PM after sit-down, say he refused to make promises to advance equal rights due to coalition pressures

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with members of the LGBT community at his residence in Jerusalem, April 7, 2019. (Facebook)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with members of the LGBT community at his residence in Jerusalem, April 7, 2019. (Facebook)

Leaders of Israel’s LGBT community blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday after the Likud leader told them during a meeting that coalition pressures prevented him from promising to promote equal rights.

In a rare meeting with activists at his residence in Jerusalem, the prime minister said opposition from religious and ultra-Orthodox parties blocked him from meeting their demands. But he pledged that should he form the next government after Tuesday’s elections, the education portfolio would remain with his Likud party, which was committed to advancing the LGBT community.

“Unfortunately, with the exception of hugs and warm words, we have not received any commitment to prevent LGBT-phobia incitement or any commitment to ending discrimination,” the Association for the LGBT Community in Israel posted on its Facebook page on Sunday.

It was the first time in 10 years that Netanyahu had met with LGBT activists.

Despite their disappointment, activist Ohad Hizki said the event nonetheless had political importance, given that it was a public meeting with the prime minister.

Protesters for LGBT rights march on Tel Aviv’s Ayalon freeway, July 22, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“We hope that the positive and beautiful statements that we have heard today will be translated in the next term into legislation and we will uphold our right to equality, and will not be left with empty promises like we have heard so far,” said Hizki, director of The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force.

The Labor Party’s gay faction attacked Netanyahu over the Sunday meeting, saying a week ago he held a press conference with a known homophobe, Walla News reported. Giora Ezra runs a pro-Netanyahu Twitter account under the moniker “Captain George,” in which he used the homophobic term “pillow-biter” to disparage what he termed the “elitist” former Israel Police commissioner, Roni Alsheich, in March.

A Labor statement slammed Netanyahu, saying that despite Ezra’s offensive tweet  he was “received with great respect in the Netanyahu family’s home,” adding that the meeting with the LGBT leaders was nothing more than election “spin.”

In a report submitted to President Reuven Rivlin in February, the country’s largest gay rights group said 2018 saw a 54 percent jump in the number of reported homophobic incidents over the previous year.

The head of the Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, Hen Arieli, slammed the government at the time for giving “cover” to homophobes “by systematically refusing to grant us our rights, allowing ministers and clerks to discriminate against us and our families, not advancing equality or personal security.”

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