TEL AVIV – In an unprecedented move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally welcomed his Likud party’s first openly gay lawmaker as he was sworn in to the Knesset on Monday.
It is rare for the prime minister to welcome new Knesset Members, with the job usually given to a fellow lawmaker.
Netanyahu noted that Amir Ohana (pictured second from left), Israel’s new Interior Minister, is the first openly gay representative to be elected to the Knesset from Netanyahu’s Likud party. He predicted that Ohana would be an excellent MK who would build bridges between different sectors of the Israeli public. Netanyahu also said that Ohana is an amicable person but a firm politician.
“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.”
Although there are and have been other openly gay MK’s in the Knesset, Ohana was the first to be elected via an open primary.
In his inaugural speech, Ohana, who lives with his partner and twin babies, mentioned the different components 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 replaced former Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who resigned last week in the wake of sexual misconduct charges.
Ohana, who is also a veteran of the Shin Bet security agency, will continue to promote LGBT rights as the founder and chairman of the Likud Pride Group.