(photo credit: TWITTER)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally welcomed MK Amir Ohana, the first gay lawmaker from the Likud, as he was sworn in to the Knesset on Monday.
When new MKs are sworn in, another lawmaker usually welcomes him or her, but it is rare for the prime minister to do so.
“I am happy to accept him in our ranks,” Netanyahu said. “Ohana has a rich past in defense and is the head of the Likud Pride Group. I accept him with appreciation and pride,” he added.
Netanyahu described Ohana as pleasant to speak to, but firm in his political stances, and predicted he will be an excellent MK. The prime minister said he thinks Ohana will bridge different parts of the public, and pointed out that he is the first openly representative to be elected to the Knesset via an open primary.
MK Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union) is gay and was elected in a primary, but he was in the closet when he was voted in; former Meretz MKs Uzi Even and Nitzan Horowitz are gay, but their party’s primary is limited to its central committee.
In his inaugural speech, Ohana talked about the different parts of his identity: “Jewish, Israeli, Mizrahi [Sephardic], gay, a Likudnik, security- minded, liberal, a supporter of the free market, and a father.”
“What comes first?” he asked. “When people shout itbach al Yahud
[Arabic for kill the Jews], I am a Jew. When they shoot, boycott, label and expel, I am a settler...When soldiers are defamed, I am a soldier...When a girl is stabbed at the Pride Parade, I am a proud gay man.”
Ohana replaces former interior minister Silvan Shalom, who resigned last week in light of sexual misconduct allegations.
The new MK is the founder and chairman of the Likud Pride Group, an LGBT interest group within the party, but he told The Jerusalem Post last week that other issues will take priority.
As someone who spent six years in the IDF and another six in the Shin Bet, 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. In addition, he said he hopes to deal with economic issues.
Still, LGBT rights are important to Ohana, and he hopes to promote them, though he said he knows it will be difficult considering the religious parties in the coalition. Opposition parties plan 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, but he said he would vote with the Likud.
Ohana, 39, has a life partner and twins who are less than a year old. They were not allowed to watch Ohana’s swearing in from the Knesset’s special mezzanine, out of concern the babies would make noise; but they watched from the public gallery, behind glass.
Also Monday, the coalition boycotted the vote on the opposition’s no-confidence motion, because the opposition did not agree to cancel the vote during a Likud central committee meeting, as is customary.