2014 Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Representatives from five parties that according to the last Jerusalem Post poll, will represent over half the next Knesset, sent representatives to brandish their pro-LGBT credentials at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa on Sunday.
Representatives from the Likud, Zionist Union, Yesh Atid, Kulanu and Meretz factions, which polls suggest will garner 66 seats in the election, admitted they had differing degrees of devotion to the issue.
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah and Meretz MK Michal Rozin faced off over which party had stronger commitment to issues affecting the community, such as the use of surrogacy.
Shelah, who co-chaired the LGBT lobby in the Knesset alongside outgoing Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, made the case that being in the coalition helped actually get things done.
“When there’s a 19-mandate faction in the coalition, it can do a lot more than a 6-mandate party in the opposition,” Shelah said, arguing repeatedly that compromise for the sake of progress was preferable to no progress at all. He argued that Yesh Atid’s alliance in the last coalition negotiation with Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi, which critics have labeled homophobic, was preferable to the far more stringent opposition from haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties.
Rozin, on the other hand, noted that her party had been an early and vocal supporter of LGBT rights, and argued that Meretz’s worldview was consistent on all minority rights.
“We are not dealing with the roots of the problem, and the root of the problem is that Israeli society lives in separation,” she said. “There is no question we need the compass and consciousness of the Knesset.”
Amir Ohana, a candidate on the Likud list, said the ruling party had made great strides in incorporating pro-LGBT positions in recent years, though he admitted that anyone whose first priority was gay rights should not vote for the Likud.
“I’m not saying it will be the most pro-LGBT party. It won’t be,” he said.
But liberal people who had more hawkish views on other issues should vote Likud, he argued, because that would give haredi parties less sway in negotiations.
The Zionist Union’s Nachman Shai appealed to the audience with similar strategic voting logic.
“If we don’t change the leadership to one that champions these causes, we will not make progress,” he said, noting that a big victory for his party was the only chance to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If Netanyahu is reelected on March 17, he said, “the sea won’t be able to absorb all the tears we will cry on the morning of the 18th.”