(photo credit: TWITTER)
Amir Ohana did not wait to become an MK to start spending time in the Knesset.
Ohana, 39, with a life partner and twins, is expected to be sworn in as a lawmaker next week, instead of Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who resigned in light of sexual misconduct allegations. But Ohana was already frequenting the halls of the Knesset and Likud faction meetings in recent months, preparing for when it would be his turn.
The head and founder of the Likud Pride Group, an LGBT interest group within the leading party, who will soon be the first openly gay Likud MK, spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Monday about his plans and expectations.
Throughout the interview, MKs from the coalition and the opposition interjected to hug him and say “Mazal Tov,” and during a Likud faction meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu specifically welcomed Ohana, saying he is a “serious” addition to the faction.
Despite the warm reception, Ohana said he has mixed feelings about his expected debut as a lawmaker.
“I didn’t want to enter like this,” he said. “It could have happened for more pleasant reasons. But what happened, happened.”
While Ohana is known for his gay-rights activism, he said: “LGBT topics are not the only ones I will deal with, and they won’t even take up most of my time. There are more burning issues on the agenda.”
The most important topic, Ohana said, are diplomatic and security matters, because “Israel is the most threatened country in the world.”
As someone who spent six years in the IDF and another six in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), he hopes to become a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. As a lawyer, he has taken an interest in the Law, Constitution and Justice Committee.
The soon-to-be-MK also said he hopes to deal with “economic issues, which influence everyone in the country.”
Ohana was circumspect when asked about specific laws he may want to pass.
“First, I want to learn, and then act. It’s not a good idea to make declarations before learning the territory and making my case,” he explained.
As for LGBT matters, Ohana is proud of making inroads on the Right.
“Until recently, the Left were the only ones for LGBT rights, but we established the Likud Pride Group and we want to make it an issue that crosses parties, not just for a narrow sector,” he stated.
According to Ohana, making gay rights a bipartisan issue is both better for the LGBT community and for the Likud.
Still, Ohana admits that the current coalition, which includes Shas, United Torah Judaism and Bayit Yehudi, will make it difficult to pass more gay rights laws.
“It will be challenging, but I’ll try,” he said.
Ohana may face a different kind of challenge from the opposition.
In an unusual move, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid welcomed Ohana to the Knesset, and said his party would be happy to cooperate with the soon-to-be Likud MK on pro- LGBT legislation.
But behind the offer lay a plan by Yesh Atid, Zionist Union and Meretz to embarrass Ohana as the Likud’s LGBT representative by proposing many gay-friendly bills and creating a dilemma as to how he should vote.
Ohana, however, told the Knesset Channel that he would vote with the Likud – meaning that he will probably end up voting against many bills to help the very cause he represents.