Ultra-Orthodox Lawmakers Boycott Swearing-in Ceremony of New Gay Likud Knesset Member

Amir Ohana greeted with praise from Prime Minister Netanyahu as he steps in to replace Silvan Shalom who resigned amid sexual harassment accusations.

Amir Ohana speaking in Knesset, December 28, 2015.
Knesset spokesperson

Ultra-Orthodox Knesset members Monday boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of new Likud MK Amir Ohana, the party's first openly gay parliamentarian.

Ohana has entered parliament after Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I am here with all of who I am and what I am, what I’ve chosen and what I haven’t, and am proud of this: Jewish, Israeli, Mizrahi, gay, Likudnik, security-ist, liberal and a free-market-economy man,” Ohana said.

He said that as a Likud member he was sometimes considered a settler, and he was sometimes considered a Mizrahi, a Jew with roots in Muslim countries.

“When they stab to death – a young woman in the parade of love and tolerance – I’m gay, a gay person who does not hope the day will come but gets up and supplies it. A gay person who understands that the flag we carry, lesbians and gay men, trans and bi, is the rainbow flag.”

ln an unusual step, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the ceremony and gave his blessing from the Knesset podium.

“I want to make a clear point that may not be clear. Amir is the first clear, candid representative of the gay community who was elected in an open primary when he was completely out [of the closet]. He was elected by thousands of voters in the Likud primary,” Netanyahu said.

“Amir represents very well our view of liberal nationalism. He believes in the rights of the Jewish people in their land, in protecting the country’s security, civil rights, capitalist economics and a free market.”

Netanyahu added: “I’ve had the chance to work with him. He is pleasant but firm in his opinions, steadfast in his principles, and I think he will be an excellent Knesset member and a bridge between different parts of the public. I receive him with respect and pride.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said he hoped Ohana would join the opposition’s attempts to improve the standing of Israel’s gay community.

A source in United Torah Judaism said the party was not as enthused. “The UTJ Knesset members did not leave the Knesset hall demonstrably, they simply were not enthusiastic to enter,” he said. “There is no decision not to cooperate with him. A few [ultra-Orthodox] MKs went up to Ohana after the swearing-in and congratulated him.”