Likud's Amir Ohana to Resign Knesset Seat, Stay on as Public Security Minister

Ohana, who is openly gay and has voted against his party's stance on LGBTQ issues, resigned based on a law that allows a limited number of cabinet members to free up their parliamentary seats

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Amir Ohana at a cabinet meeting in May 2020.
Amir Ohana at a cabinet meeting in May 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party announced Tuesday that he would resign from the Knesset but retain his cabinet post. The resignation is in accordance with a law that permits cabinet members to cede their Knesset seats so that other members of their party can become members of parliament.

Ohana, who is openly gay, has refrained from voting against legislation in recent years in support of the LGBTQ community and has bucked the stance of his own party at times to support such legislation. His resignation from the Knesset may weaken support for similar legislation but will spare him regular confrontations with coalition whip Miki Zohar on the issue.

The so-called Norwegian law will have Ohana’s vacated seat go to Amit Halevi, who at No. 38, is the next in line on the Likud candidate slate from the March Knesset election. The law, which was passed in June, permits cabinet ministers and deputy ministers to resign their Knesset seats based a formula linked to the size of their party’s Knesset faction and the number of the party’s Knesset members who are not in the cabinet.

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“I decided to be the first minister from Likud to invoke the Norwegian law and to suspend my membership in the Knesset (not in the cabinet),” Ohana wrote on Facebook. “In my humble opinion, this step fulfills the democratic idea of separation of powers.”

In taking the step, Ohana wrote, he is freeing up the seat for a Knesset member who can be more involved in the legislative process, in parliamentary committees and in the Knesset chamber. “Amit Halevi have been dealing with policy issues for many years and is very involved in internal Likud and national activities,” the public security minister wrote. “I have no doubt that he will be a significant, high-quality addition to the Likud faction and the Knesset.”

Halevi, who lives in Jerusalem, is the head of the Jewish Statesmanship Center at the Zippori Center in the capital. His name was in the news as a result of a legal battle that he waged following the Knesset election in April 2019 in which he claimed that he had been wrongfully deprived of a Knesset seat due to forged ballots and a miscount.

The issue fueled Likud’s effort to allow cameras in polling stations in Arab communities, where it alleged that voter fraud had taken place. The allegations prompted the Central Election Committee to authorize polling station workers to be equipped with body cameras in the subsequent elections in September 2019 and March 2020.

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