Netanyahu had no reason to give in to Maoz's demands - editorial

Netanyahu did not have to compromise his own beliefs and cave in to each of Maoz’s demands – in fact, he could have formed a stable coalition without him.

Noam Party leader Avi Maoz poses for a picture at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, July 19, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Noam Party leader Avi Maoz poses for a picture at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, July 19, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The deal between the Likud and the Noam Party to appoint its lone Knesset member Avi Maoz to be in charge of Jewish identity is odious enough – but what it says about prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s state of mind is even more concerning.

Under a deal signed between Netanyahu and Maoz on Sunday, the Noam leader will be appointed deputy minister and head the new “National Jewish Identity Department” in the Prime Minister’s Office. Among the organizations to be transferred to Maoz’s department will be Nativ, which is responsible for processing aliyah from the former Soviet Union.

Maoz’s appointment is problematic for several reasons, of which Netanyahu is completely aware. Maoz seeks, inter alia, to cancel the so-called “grandfather clause” making non-Jewish grandchildren of Jews eligible for aliyah under the Law of Return; to remove non-Orthodox conversion to Judaism from acceptable proofs of Jewishness for immigration; to legislate exclusive Orthodox control over the Western Wall; to bar women from serving in the IDF; to scrap “progressive study programs” in schools, including “gender studies”; and to cancel Gay Pride parades and reintroduce gay conversion therapy.

Last week, Maoz mocked Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton’s new set of guidelines for treating LGBTQ+ school children designed to protect the children, asking her if she prefers to be addressed as ma’am or sir.

 Noam MK Avi Maoz arrives for a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Noam MK Avi Maoz arrives for a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) called Netanyahu’s deal with Maoz “no less than insanity.”

“With every passing day, it seems like rather than a fully right-wing government, what is being formed here is fully unhinged,” Lapid tweeted. “This is the man who opposes women’s enlistment into the IDF, opposes women in senior roles, supports conversion therapy for the LGBT, and supports every other backward view imaginable.”

Addressing Netanyahu supporters directly, Lapid asked: “Is this what you wanted? For this backward nationalist to make decisions over your life? Over your daughters? Over your gay nephew? Is this how you want the State of Israel to look?”

“Is this what you wanted? For this backward nationalist to make decisions over your life? Over your daughters? Over your gay nephew? Is this how you want the State of Israel to look?”

Yair Lapid

The Reform Movement issued a statement reminding Maoz that there is more than one way to be Jewish. “Avi Maoz, who received a job laden with funds from [Netanyahu], will not decide for millions of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora what those ways are,” it said.

The Aguda – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel called the inclusion of Maoz in Netanyahu’s future government “a low point” for the State of Israel. “The man who called us perverts and pedophiles and referred to our sexual orientations as ‘upside down,’ has no right being a deputy minister in an Israeli government,” it said in a statement. “His work revolves around an obsession to take away rights from the LGBTQ+ community and to legitimize hate against it.”

After his meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday, Maoz said, “We presented to the prime minister-elect our worldview, according to which there is a need to remove all of the anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish contents that were slipped into the education system, as well as the need to strengthen the Jewish character of the state. We hope that with God’s help, we will quickly form a Jewish and nationalist government, and I believe that Noam will be a part of it.”

“We presented to the prime minister-elect our worldview, according to which there is a need to remove all of the anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish contents that were slipped into the education system, as well as the need to strengthen the Jewish character of the state. We hope that with God’s help, we will quickly form a Jewish and nationalist government, and I believe that Noam will be a part of it.”

Avi Maoz

Netanyahu never had to appoint Maoz to anything – he never even needed Maoz's support

Here’s the thing: Netanyahu has the comfortable support of 64 members of the new Knesset, well more than half of the 120 lawmakers. He did not have to compromise his own beliefs and cave in to each of Maoz’s demands – in fact, he could have formed a stable coalition without him.

We have no doubt that Netanyahu, despite the criminal trial against him, is a good person who supports Jewish pluralism and an acceptance of all denominations of Judaism, as well as Jews of all sexual orientation: He has proven that numerous times over the years. Perhaps more than anyone else, he should understand the vital importance of these issues to non-Orthodox Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. He is certainly not misogynistic, racist or homophobic.

Why, then, did he so readily sign with Avi Maoz and put him in charge of Jewish identity? The answer sadly seems to be that it’s a result of politics and to ensure that the judicial reforms he is planning to stop his trial will move ahead.

That is his right – but at what cost to the country?