MK Amir Ohana.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Amir Ohana will be the country’s first gay minister ever after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to appoint him interim justice minister.
The move comes ahead of Thursday’s gay pride parade in Jerusalem.The official Prime Minister’s Office statement announcing the appointment emphasized Ohana’s professional qualifications as “a lawyer who is very familiar with the legal system,” and his apprenticeship in the State’s Attorney’s Office Tel Aviv district. The statement said Ohana has appeared before courts across the country and sponsored key legislation in the Knesset, including the Nation-State Law.
Netanyahu’s spokesman Yonatan Urich singled out only the history Netanyahu was making in the appointment: “For the first time ever, a member of the LGBT community will be a senior member of the Israeli government.”
Ohana thanked the prime minister for putting his trust in him.
“As a Jew, as an Israeli, as the partner of the love of my life Alon Haddad, as the father of Ella and David, as a Mizrachi, as a Likudnik, as a Beersheba native, as a liberal and as a lawyer who has spent thousands of hours in court, it is a great honor to serve Israel as justice minister,” he said.
Ohana replaces Ayelet Shaked, who Netanyahu fired on Sunday. Netanyahu is expected to appoint several more ministers from Likud next week but he had to expedite the appointment of a justice minister because Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit ruled that the prime minister could not hold the portfolio due to the three ongoing criminal cases against him.
Shaked wished her successor the best of luck, and offered to assist him in any way possible. The appointment was praised by top figures in Likud, including Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and MK Uzi Dayan.
But Union of Right-Wing Parties MK Bezalel Smotrich criticized the appointment because he wanted it for himself. He accused Netanyahu of mistreating the religious-Zionist sector and warned that “lessons will be learned.”
The Likud responded that there would soon be appointments from the URP but added that Ohana’s appointment meant that Smotrich’s wish of a country led by religious law would not come true. Smotrich’s party responded to the Likud by saying that Netanyahu “took Smotrich’s words about running the country by Jewish law out of context in an ugly way.”
Blue and White MK Idan Roll, who is also gay, congratulated Ohana and said he hoped the new minister would use the post to advance the struggle for equality for the LGBT community. Earlier on Wednesday, Blue and White had urged Mandelblit to take action against Netanyahu for not appointing a justice minister.
The Movement for Purity of Ethics requested on Wednesday that the High Court of Justice force Netanyahu to immediately appoint an acting justice minister. The petition said Netanyahu was violating Mandelblit’s directive and putting himself in a position of having a conflict of interest as holding specific authority over the state prosecution at the same time as he is likely to face indictment in the next six months.
Further, the petition said Netanyahu himself must vacate the post of acting justice minister immediately regardless of other considerations.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin refused to take the ministry in a mere acting capacity because he said he was only interested in the position in a permanent capacity so that he could carry out major changes to the legal system.
Also, on Wednesday the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel filed a petition to the High Court asking that it place Netanyahu in contempt for ignoring a court order.
In a previous court hearing, Netanyahu agreed to provide financial documents to the State Comptroller committee as part of the legal proceedings over whether he has the right to get his legal defense of the public corruption charges paid by some of his tycoon allies.
He has refused to provide the documents following accusing the committee of previously improperly leaking damaging information to the press out of his financial documents.
Although the committee already has given Netanyahu an extension to provide the financial documents until June 12, the petition says the prime minister has already dragged his feet for months – long enough to have violated the prior court order on the issue.
Netanyahu reportedly asked for an additional postponement of his pre-indictment hearing from October 2-3, but Mandelblit is expected to reject any further requests for a delay – at least until much closer to the hearing date.