Netanyahu Appoints Israel’s First Openly Gay Minister

Israeli Knesset member Amir Ohana attends the Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala at the Marriott Marquis on Thursday, May 5, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
DEBORAH DANAN

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday appointed Amir Ohana to replace Ayelet Shaked as justice minister, making him the first openly gay cabinet minister.

Shaked was fired by Netanyahu earlier this week after she and former education minister Naftali Bennett failed to make the electoral threshold with their New Right party in the April 9 elections.

Ohana thanked the prime minister, saying it was “a great honor to serve the State of Israel in the role of justice minister.”

Ohana, a lawyer by profession, is one of the only senior Likud members publicly backing Netanyahu’s bid to pass the so-called “immunity law” that would protect the prime minister from prosecution in three criminal cases facing him.

Ohana has been a vocal critic of judicial officials, saying the fact that they have so much power yet remain unelected is a serious problem.

The appointment of Ohana sparked anger from Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, who had called for the post to be reserved for him. However, Smotrich’s comments saying he wanted to enact Jewish law in the country were slammed by Likud members, including Netanyahu himself.

“We want the justice portfolio because we want to restore the Torah justice system,” Smotrich said.

Netanyahu fired back: “Israel will not become a Halacha (Jewish law) state.”

Following Ohana’s appointment, Smotrich said he was a worthy appointment but that didn’t take away from the fact that “Netanyahu wouldn’t treat any of his other partners like he allows himself to treat religious Zionists.”

Shaked wished Ohana luck, tweeting, “I wish Amir Ohana tremendous success in the position of justice minister. It is an important and challenging ministry with the most skilled staff. I’m at his disposal for any help or questions.”

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