US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides expressed his dismay Wednesday after a senior member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s presumed incoming government vowed to cancel the Jerusalem Price Parade.
“I was really bummed out when I heard someone who is potentially in a serious job talk about canceling the gay pride parade,” Nides said at an event organized by Tel Aviv University’s Coller School of Management.
Far-right Knesset member Avi Maoz, who ran on a stridently anti-LGBT platform, said last week that he will see to it that Jerusalem pride be abolished, calling the annual event “a promiscuous parade of abomination.”
Netanyahu issued a statement shortly after Maoz’s remarks were published, insisting that the parade would continue to be held.
Just days earlier, Netanyahu reached an agreement with Maoz, leader of the fringe Noam party, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of a new “national Jewish identity” government agency. Maoz will have authority over the Education Ministry department responsible for external teaching and partnerships, giving him control over non-official bodies enlisted to teach or lecture at schools.
While Nides didn’t name Maoz, he went further than US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who on Sunday told the J Street lobby that the Biden administration will express its support for the LGBT community, in remarks widely understood to have been in the context of the Noam chairman’s pledge to cancel Jerusalem pride.
Nides said Wednesday that he marched in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv pride parades this year and planned to do so again next year.
He also reiterated the position put forth by Blinken at the J Street conference regarding the incoming government, saying that he would “judge these guys on the actions, not yet on what we think may happen.”
He added that he would not be telling Israel what to do, given that it is a democracy. “We will speak up and speak out when we believe that our shared values are getting confused, and that’s what friends do,” Nides clarified.
“I’ll work with Prime Minister Netanyahu. As he says, he has his hands on the wheel,” the ambassador continued. “I’m going to make sure those hands are very tight on that wheel, and I’ll encourage him to do the things that he said he wants to do.”
“He said he wants to be prime minister for all of Israel. I take him at his word. And obviously, the United States will work with him to make sure that happens,” he added, further indicating that Washington views Netanyahu as the most moderate member of the next Israeli government, which has been characterized as the most right-wing in the country’s history.
Biden administration officials have dodged repeated questions as to whether they will engage with some of the hardline members of the next Israeli government. The White House held a meeting last week on the matter but no decision was made and the line in Blinken’s speech — “We will gauge the government by the policies and procedures, rather than individual personalities” — came about as a result of that indecision, an official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel.
The official did say, however, that Nides is currently not planning to meet with Itamar Ben Gvir, another far-right leader slated to become national security minister.