Netanyahu denies report UTJ demanded he replace Ohana because he's gay

Channel 12 reported that a senior member of UTJ vowed that the party “will not allow Ohana become permanent justice minister.”

June 7, 2019 00:11
2 minute read.
Likud MK Amir Ohana attends the Pride parade in Jerusalem, June 6, 2019

Likud MK Amir Ohana attends the Pride parade in Jerusalem, June 6, 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vigorously denied a report on Thursday that he had been requested by United Torah Judaism (UTJ) to commit to replacing acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana after the September 17 election because he is gay.

Channel 12 reported that a senior member of UTJ vowed that the party “will not allow Ohana to become permanent justice minister” after the Likud boasted that it was the first time a member of the LGBT community would be a senior government minister.
“The prime minister did not give any haredi party any commitment,” Likud spokesman Yonatan Urich said. “Contrary to the report, MK Ohana has been fully appointed justice minister.”

But the spokesman did not respond to a question on whether Netanyahu had committed to let him keep the job after the election, when the post is expected to be given to current tourism minister and Netanyahu confidant, Yariv Levin. Ohana is expected to be given a different portfolio after the election.

UTJ leaders Ya’acov Litzman and Moshe Gafni also strongly denied the report.

The justice portfolio will not be given to Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) MK Bezalel Smotrich, despite his demands for it.

Smotrich faced criticism from sources close to URP leader Rafi Peretz for criticizing Netanyahu for not giving him the job. Peretz’s associates warned that Smotrich was harming the party’s chances of getting top portfolios after the election, and “behaving like a spoiled child.”

Sources close to Smotrich then accused Peretz of violating an agreement in which Smotrich would get the top portfolio for the party by accepting the education portfolio. Peretz’s associates claimed that deal was for the April election, and did not apply to the September election.

But the two men settled their differences on Thursday, and Peretz is expected to be given the education portfolio and Smotrich a different ministry next week as part of a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, whose dream job is education minister, pressed Netanyahu on Thursday to not give the post to Peretz.
“The education system in Israel is failing,” Gamliel wrote on Twitter. “The prime minister must keep his campaign promise to keep the portfolio for the Likud and not give into extortion from the URP.”

Netanyahu met on Thursday with Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who told him he has not yet made up his mind on whether to accept his offer to become Israel’s next ambassador to the UN, replacing Danny Danon, whose term is ending.

As part of the reshuffle, a portfolio is expected to be given to Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. She could not confirm a Haaretz report that she would become Diaspora affairs minister.

Alon Einhorn contributed to this report.

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