Rainbow Report / Pride and Politics in Tel Aviv's Mayoral Race

Incumbent Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and openly gay MK Nitzan Horowitz will try to court the LGBT community at Friday's Gay Pride events.

It may not be so evident from the joyous spectrum of colors, the deafening music and the abundance of skin, but Pride is basically a political demonstration – subversive in its daring display of sexuality, revolutionary in its defiance of social norms, even if these days it feels less so.

Of course, the degree of its audacity varies from city to city: Salt Lake City Pride is quite different from San Francisco Pride. Likewise, in Israel, Tel Aviv Pride is a celebration while Jerusalem Pride is a protest.

This year, however, Tel Aviv Pride will become much more politically charged, albeit for a different reason: It may well be the unofficial launch of the Tel Aviv mayoral race.

Last month, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), the first openly gay politician elected to the Knesset, announced his candidacy for Tel Aviv mayor in the upcoming October race, challenging incumbent Ron Huldai, who has run the city for 15 years.

No doubt Pride will be an important platform for the candidates to start making their case to a vocal and influential (at least in Tel Aviv) constituency.

Huldai has undoubtedly been a friend of the LGBT community during his tenure. Under his watch, the Pride festival ballooned from a small, local gathering to an international destination event. A number of gay city councilmembers have served in Huldai’s administration and have effectively advocated for increased resources, including an impressive LGBT community center, one of the only in the world to boast municipal support. As a result of these efforts, Tel Aviv has rightly been named as one of the best gay cities in the world on multiple occasions.

Horowitz, on the other hand, is one of the community’s own and has been a tireless fighter for LGBT rights in the Knesset, one of the few. He commands great respect in the community (and outside it as well) and is expected to grab a large segment of the pink vote for being such a strong spokesman on a national level. Pride will be an important opportunity for him to connect with his peers and mobilize their support.

Of course, Horowitz will have to win over many more Tel Avivians than just the gays to unseat the incumbent. And the LGBT community may not be quick to abandon a mayor who has been a strong ally.

Huldai will officially kick off the Pride festivities and make his presence known to remind the crowd of his contributions – it’s his team that’s producing the events so, in a way, he has the home-court advantage.

Horowitz will similarly be making the rounds publicly for the first time since throwing his hat in the ring. Lucky for him, he has a built-in captive audience – for example, he was scheduled to raise a toast at a lesbian event on Wednesday night and talk about what he’ll do for women in the city.

At the moment, Horowitz is not favored to win, though he’s polling well. But Pride is probably the best campaign launch pad he could ask for. After all, he's got a different home-court advantage.
 

Tomer Appelbaum
Liat Mandel