”When soldiers are defamed, I am a soldier; when a girl is murdered at the gay pride parade, I’m a gay man”—Amir Ohana
Even for an assembly accustomed to spectacle, the maiden speech of Amir Ohana—the first openly LGBT Knesset member from Israel’s Likud Party—was unusual. After Ohana proclaimed that he was simultaneously “a Jew, an Israeli, a Mizrahi, a homosexual, a Likudnik, a security forces veteran, a liberal, and a free-marketer,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went up to the podium to congratulate and laud him. This tribute quickly descended into a novel argument between Netanyahu and the opposition, essentially over which party is more accepting of LGBT members.
“Amir is the first clear and visible representative of the gay community who was elected in an open primary, that is, when he was completely out,” Netanyahu contended. “What about Nitzan Horowitz?” the opposition shouted, referring to a former representative of the left-wing Meretz Party. Their central committee chose him, Netanyahu said. When leader of the opposition Yitzhak Herzog asked about another former Meretz MK, Netanyahu conceded that Ohana was the first in Likud.
“This was the first time the right in Israel had addressed LGBT issues,” Ohana told me during an interview at his home in Tel Aviv. He says Pride in the Likud succeeded in changing the Likud Party platform to reflect a commitment to LGBT equality. “Within the party, we received an almost entirely positive reaction. I can count on one hand the negative reactions that said, ‘You don’t have a place in Likud. Go to Meretz.’ ”