Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed his support on the Knesset’s first designated LGBT Rights Day on Tuesday.
Netanyahu rarely appears in the legislature on Tuesdays, a day on which it usually does not hold important votes, but he arrived specially to participate in LGBT Rights Day, during which discussions of the topic were held in the plenum and committees.
The prime minister briefly addressed the plenum: “I know that there were important and lengthy discussions today, and I came here in the middle of my schedule, which was no less busy, to say one sentence to the members of the LGBT community: ‘Every man was created in the image of God.’ That is the idea brought by our nation to mankind thousands of years ago, and it is the principle that must guide our national lives today.”
MK Amir Ohana, the first gay lawmaker from Likud, said the LGBT community is 10 percent of the population and is discriminated against under law.
“They cannot get married in their country, bring children into the world [via surrogacy] in their country, be their partners’ heir if he or she dies, and not because they are hostile to the state, do not serve in the army or pay taxes, rather, because they are gay or lesbian,” Ohana said.
(Courtesy: Michael Rosin's Office)
The Likud MK compared the LGBT community to the Jewish people, who were “hated for no reason, persecuted, discriminated against and faced forced conversion.”
“What did they do wrong that so many people hate them, sometimes to death?” Ohana asked.
MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) said that LGBT Rights Day is celebratory, but that she is disappointed that the Knesset was unable to pass any new gay rights laws.
“This House still insists on turning its back to the gay community,” she said. “This government and coalition consider it fate that parts of it cannot accept the community and denounce it... The coalition dances to [the ultra-Orthodox parties’] tune.”
Among the Knesset committee meetings on gay rights was a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on IDF Manpower about LGBT IDF soldiers.
During the meeting, the IDF Chief of Staff’s Adviser on Women’s Affairs Rachel Tevet pointed out that 18-year-olds are enlisted without regard to sexual orientation and thus the IDF does not know how many gay soldiers there are.
Tevet gave an overview of gay soldiers’ integration, and former LGBT soldiers talked about their experiences, which were a mix of positive and negative.
“We do the maximum, but remember, education doesn’t start at the IDF, it starts in people’s private lives,” Tevet said.
Subcommittee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) asked the IDF to hold more workshops on the subject for commanders and to improve its work to integrate transgender soldiers.
“I was glad to hear the conditions in the army are good [for members of the LGBT community], as it should be,” Kisch said. “At the same time... the improvements must continue.
“The IDF is the army of the people and everyone must feel comfortable and certainly not have concerns based on their gender identity,” he added.