"There is not one struggle in Israel for democracy and a separate struggle for LGBT rights. It is the same struggle, against the same enemies, in the name of the same values," opposition leader MK Yair Lapid said at Jerusalem's Liberty Bell Park on Thursday ahead of the city's annual Gay Pride Parade.
"Whoever attacks Israeli democracy attacks LGBT people, and whoever attacks LGBT people attacks democracy," Lapid said.
"Outside are standing, like every year, the pathetic thugs of Lehava and the Kach movement, protesting against us. But this year, those people are no longer a laughable band of dark extremists – they are part of the government.
"[Finance Minister] Bezalel Smotrich, [National Security Minister MK] Itamar Ben-Gvir and [MK] Avi Maoz, are trying to push all of us back into the closet – the dark closet of their prejudices, the dark closet of fear and hate. They will not succeed. We will not let them," Lapid said.
The opposition leader added that he had formed a team led by Yesh Atid MK Naor Shiri, that would work with local authority leaders and parent organizations in order to ensure that the ultra-conservative and anti-LGBT Maoz does not use his newly minted "Jewish National Identity Authority" to introduce anti-LGBT content into Israel's education system.
"In my lifetime, I have seen the State of Israel's attitude towards the [LGBT] community change. Contrary to everything that people tell you, change is possible. Hope can change hearts, People can be educated on a certain set of opinions and feelings, and then change," Lapid added.
Gantz: We will not march when 'gay' is no longer a curse-word
National Unity Benny Gantz also spoke at the Liberty Bell Park ahead of the parade, and answered what he said was a question that infuriated him – "Why are they marching?"
"We will not need to march when this march does not require security, snipers and undercover police officers. When every couple can walk wherever they want, holding hands, like any couple.
"We will not have to march, when 'gay' is no longer a curse in schools but simply a self-definition.
"We will not need to march, when every person can get married, in our homeland, in their home, in their own way, and have children not due to the defenses of the court, but with regularized legislation. When all of this is self-evident, we may not march.
"We will not need to march when a prime minister in Israel will not even consider giving the keys to the education system to a racist and dark man, and provide millions of shekels to 'oversee' liberal education programs.
"We will not need to march when racists do not sit in the government, and when the minister who is responsible that all of you remain safe everywhere, does not wish to limit us from marching," Gantz said.
Labor chairperson MK Merav Michaeli, who also attended the march, said to Ynet that "we always hope that we are moving forwards in humanity and that it is clear that people are equal – no matter who they love. But we have gone far backward in the country. We have a government that does not recognize the basic right of each person to define himself or herself. We are here to talk about this, demonstrate this, be proud about this, march, and win."
Nearly 20 MKs participated in the march, all from the opposition, including from Yesh Atid, National Unity, Labor and Yisrael Beytenu.