It was announced last week that MK Avi Maoz, the sole member of the Noam faction of the National Religious Party, would be a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office as part of his coalition agreement with presumptive incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He would also be taking charge of Nativ, a body within the Prime Minister’s Office charged with liaising with Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union.
As part of the agreement, Maoz – known for his extreme comments against women, progressive Jews and members of the LGBTQ community – will be in charge of the “National Jewish Identity Department,” a new one with the power to delegate required content in school syllabi.
There are plenty of reasons that Maoz is considered an extremist. The first and most obvious is his blatant homophobia. The Noam party’s most popular ideology is that “a family is between a mother and a father.” Maoz has been outspoken in making fun of transgender people, including asking Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton if she “prefers to be called ma’am or sir.” He also promised to cancel the Jerusalem Pride Parade even though Netanyahu was quick to deny that it would be done.
Other than that, Noam and Maoz have been specifically outspoken in their opposition to the Jewish Reform movement. Maoz, in working with the Nativ program, will be able to take part in the approval process of new olim and potentially put obstacles in the way of people who he does not feel are Jewish enough. Government sources told The Jerusalem Post’s Zvika Klein last week that employees within the government body are “very nervous” about Maoz’s appointment.
American Jews also expressed their concern over how this appointment could affect them, but Netanyahu simply brushed it off. He claimed, in turn, that he was the one who will continue to “hold the steering wheel” of the upcoming government, during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.
Why the Noam Party is problematic
The Noam Party in 2021 put out a statement saying that it would work to amend a government resolution working to increase the participation of women and to increase equal gender representation in the workplace. It said that the move against this decision was needed to “prevent foreign anti-Israeli actors from infiltrating Israel’s public systems.”
Just a couple of months later, the party called for the IDF Gender Affairs Department to be closed, claiming that it also weakens Israel.
So it was only to be expected that members of the presumed incoming opposition, as well as municipal leaders nationwide, spoke out against Maoz’s apparent rise to a position of authority, specifically one affecting the educational curriculum in Israel.
Although Netanyahu was quick to say that he will oversee Maoz’s work in his new position, Prime Minister Yair Lapid was quick to call it out as a lie.
“Netanyahu is saying it because he knows that he did a terrible thing – giving a dangerous racist a budget of over NIS 2 billion, with an open door into the hearts and minds of every student in Israel,” Lapid said in a social media post earlier this week. “Israelis are willing to turn a blind eye to many things, but not when it comes to their children.”
While Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s voices were certainly heard, as well as mayors from the Labor Party, Meretz and so on, even mayors from the Right spoke up with fervent opposition.
Ashdod Mayor Yechiel Lasri of the Likud expressed opposition to Maoz’s extreme stances that could infiltrate Israel’s education system, as did Tzvika Brot, another Likud member and the mayor of Bat Yam. Numerous other municipal leaders, Right and Left alike, made it clear: We will boycott such extremist policies by Maoz.
The issue is not a partisan one, but a matter of principle. The seemingly-incoming coalition has several concerning members, to be sure. But Maoz is a front-runner – and this is not a matter of politics, but of principle that transcends party lines. Netanyahu should reconsider giving all of the above to Maoz – and if he does give it to him, he better carve time out of his daily schedule for a complicated task: keeping a close eye on the controversial Noam MK he made into a powerful deputy minister.