Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) sits aside his wife, Sara, and Likud MKs Gila Gamliel and Amir Ohana, during a meeting with LGBT activists, April 7th, 2019.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with activists from Israel’s gay and transgender community for the first time in 10 years on Sunday, promising to take action to help them – to a point.
“I hear you,” Netanyahu said at the meeting in his residence in Jerusalem. “I will act for you. I think it’s a humane step to take.”
However, the activists said the prime minister stopped short of committing to setting equal rights for LGBT Israelis as a condition for any coalition agreement, expressing concern that religious parties will not agree to it.
Netanyahu called the problems of LGBT youth “the most acute, the most heartbreaking,” and repeated his commitment to keep the education portfolio for a Likud minister, as opposed to more conservative parties.
Likud MK Amir Ohana, who is gay, said the meeting set an important precedent.
“Likud plans to act to continue to promote LGBT issues. The bigger Likud is, the less it will have to depend on small parties that hold different views,” he said.
Likud Pride chairman Evan Cohen said “the prime minister and his wife emphasized the most central issue – the community’s youth and the difficulties they face. The prime minister’s goal to keep the education portfolio with the Likud can allow a great battle against homophobia in general and specifically protect our youth.”
LGBT rights organizations formed a joint elections task force after this week’s election was called, and have met with the leaders of all non-religious parties that have passed the threshold in polls, except for Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman.
Ohad Hizki, Director-General of The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force, said “there is political and public importance to the existence of a direct dialogue with the prime minister, and we hope the nice and positive statements we heard today will be translated into legislation in the coming term and into standing for our right to equality, and will not turn into empty promises like we have heard so far.”
Elisha Alexander, director-general of the transgender rights organization Ma’avarim, said Netanyahu was unfamiliar with the issues facing transgender and gender-queer people and expressed hope for a change after he learned of discrimination against them in the workplace and their high suicide rate.
Last year, the gay community protested against a law that expanded the right to hire a surrogate to carry a fetus to single women, as opposed to only married women, effectively allowing gay women to use surrogacy services, but not men. Netanyahu promised to change the law to include men, as well, but then voted against it.
Blue and White’s spokesman said that Netanyahu is continuing to lie to LGBT Israelis, citing the surrogacy issue.
“As [Blue and White leader] Benny Gantz promised in his meeting with gay community representatives, a government under his leadership will not allow any party in the coalition the veto power against promoting gay rights,” the party stated. “Therefore, the choice is clear: Bibi’s dark government…or a Blue and White government that will put an end to discrimination.”
Labor’s gay members’ group said “Netanyahu embraces the darkest and most inciting factors in Israeli society with one hand and reaches out his other hand to the leaders of the gay community’s struggle. This meeting is political spin…and only a fig leaf by a man who voted against gay rights for 10 years. The community is sick of the Likud disrespecting its rights.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>