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How Netanyahu Will Spin His Gay-hating Gang to AIPAC

AIPAC is desperate for proof that this government won’t destroy Israel’s character as a liberal democracy ■ They came to study in Israel – and ended up victims of slavery and trafficking ■ Israel is approaching the gravest constitutional crisis in its history ■ Today's best reads on Haaretz

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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Naom chairman Avi Maoz
Naom chairman Avi MaozCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

Benjamin Netanyahu's supporters are angry. Not at him, of course, but at Israeli media outlets and journalists who in the past 24 hours highlighted his latest political "achievement": Signing a coalition agreement with the far-right, gay-hating Noam party. Why is the media paying so much attention, Netanyahu loyalists ask, to an agreement with a one-man faction who will ‘only’ be appointed deputy minister in the prime minister’s office?

The answer, needless to say, is clear: The Noam party and its leader Avi Maoz represent a hateful, extreme form of religious bigotry that Netanyahu himself would have totally rejected a few years ago. The image of both men shaking hands and smiling is the latest symbol of how low Netanyahu will go in his desperate attempt to extract himself from his criminal trial. For that, he needs every vote he can get, even if it means making Maoz, a man who has dedicated his political career to fighting LGBT "deviants," his new partner in crime.

But Netanyahu isn’t only desperate, he’s also cynical. On the same day that the Maoz agreement was signed, his mouthpieces, through various channels, announced that one of his leading candidates to be the next Foreign Minister is Amir Ohana, the only openly gay lawmaker in the 64-seat pro-Netanyahu bloc. The outgoing Israeli government of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, by comparison, had several LGBTQ lawmakers, including Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Rol.

Netanyahu could place Ohana in the Foreign Ministry in an attempt to sooth international criticism, especially from the Democratic Party and U.S. Jewry, over his shameful capitulation to Maoz and other religious extremists. In Israel, his coalition partners will turn back the clock to the Middle Ages. To the outside world, in meetings with naïve U.S. columnists and AIPAC-backed members of Congress, the openly gay Ohana will give reality a positive spin.

On some fronts, this move could actually work. AIPAC and its allies are desperate for any proof whatsoever that this incoming government won’t completely destroy Israel’s character as a liberal democracy. If symbolic "identity politics" in the powerless Foreign Ministry helps them tell that story, they’ll gladly take it. But most Democrats and U.S. Jewry won’t buy this used schtick. They'll know that the real power is in the hands of Netanyahu’s religious coalition partners.

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