Ohana becomes first gay Knesset Speaker as Netanyahu retakes office

Amir Ohana thanked his husband, Alon, for supporting him during his first speech as Knesset Speaker.

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next to Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana in the Knesset Plenum, December 29, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next to Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana in the Knesset Plenum, December 29, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The 37th Government of Israel was sworn in on Thursday afternoon in a 63-54 vote, the sixth of its already longest-serving prime minister, Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

The government includes 30 ministers including Netanyahu, just four of whom are women.

16 out of the ministers are from the Likud, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Education Minister Yoav Kisch.

Five ministers are from Shas – including chairman Aryeh Deri, who is both Health and Interior Minister, Religious Affairs Minister Michael Malkieli and Labor and Social Services Minister Ya'acov Margi.

There are three ministers each from the Religious Zionist Party (RZP) and Otzma Yehudit, including RZP chairman Bezalel Smotrich as Finance Minister and Otzma's Itamar Ben Gvir as National Security Minister.

Two ministers are from United Torah Judaism – chairman Yizhak Goldknopf is Housing and Construction Minister, and Meir Porush is Jerusalem and Tradition Minister – the new name for what used to be the Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry. The Heritage Ministry was broken off and given to Otzma's Amichai Eliyahu.

Finally, former Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, is Strategic Affairs Minister. He is the only minister who did not participate in the election.

Netanyahu announced after he had already presented the government to the Knesset that the Likud's Gila Gamliel will serve as Intelligence Minister pending the Knesset's approval at the next plenum meeting on Monday. This means the government will grow to 31 ministers, five of whom will be women.

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The new goverment's "national goals"

Netanyahu opened the special Knesset session on Thursday by presenting the guidelines and members of his incoming government and was followed by a speech by outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid, who is now opposition leader.

The three "national goals" of his government, Netanyahu said, was to prevent a nuclear Iran; create a bullet train to the length of the country; and to bring more peace deals with Arab countries.

The government will also improve personal safety and lower the high cost of living, Netanyahu pledged.

Netanyahu was repeatedly heckled by soon-to-be opposition members of Knesset, who called Netanyahu "weak" and his government "racist."

The first gay Knesset Speaker

Following a break early in the afternoon, the Knesset reconvened for a vote to approve the new Knesset Speaker, Likud MK Amir Ohana.

Ohana, who is the only openly gay Likud MK and who was Israel's first openly gay minister, thanked his family in his inaugural speech as speaker, mentioning his husband Alon by name.

During his speech, Ohana stressed that the new government "will not harm a single child or a single family," in an attempt to quiet public fears over possible harm to LGBT from some of the coalition's haredi or far-right parties.

Porush and fellow UTJ MK Moshe Gafni averted their gaze when Ohana spoke about his husband. Seven years ago, when Ohana was first sworn in as an MK, many of the haredi MKs walked out.

Lapid in his speech listed his government's accomplishments, including known and discreet operations against Iran; strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia; the Lebanon maritime gas deal and a number of other strategic alliances.

On security, Lapid noted that the Gaza border area was the quietest in 15 years; Operation Breaking Dawn; Operation Break the Wave, and the return of targeted assassinations against terror leaders; a record number of visitors to the Temple Mount and a quiet Ramadan.

On the economy, Lapid noted that the Economist rated Israel as the 4th best economy of 2022, as well as the budget, which passed for the first time in three-and-a-half years.

Other achievements included Operation Safe Track against crime in the Arab Sector, and the Disabilities Law, which he said were his crowning achievements.

"We are handing over a state with a strong economy, and a diplomatic status that is one of the best ever. Please do not ruin it, we will be back soon, Lapid said."

Lapid gave credit on some of the achievements to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Housing Minister Ze'ev Elkin and others.

Following the plenum session, Lapid met with Netanyahu for approximately 45 minutes for an official handover session. Lapid posted on Twitter a photo of a letter he left for Netanyahu that said "Lapid 2024," implying that Lapid would be back as prime minister in just over a year.

This is a developing story.