First openly gay right winger set to enter Knesset

Attorney Amir Ohana is set to become the first openly gay Likud lawmaker to serve in the Knesset when he takes the place of Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who stepped down from public office on Sunday evening following sexual assault allegations.

Ohana, who heads the right-wing party’s LGBT caucus, is a criminal lawyer and a former Shin Bet official.

Ohana was placed at the 32nd spot on the party list and since the elections in March, he frequently participated in Likud meetings in the Knesset.

“It was expected that I would enter at some point during the current Knesset,” Ohana said to Channel 2 Sunday evening. “At the same time, it unfortunately happened under unhappy circumstances. I will do my best for the State of Israel.”

Ohana, 39 and his partner Alon Hadad have a son and a daughter together, born through a surrogate in the US.

In recent years, a small gay wing has become increasingly active in the Likud. In February, ahead of the elections, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud spoke out in favor of gay marriage, calling marriage “every person’s human right, without regard to race, sex, or sexual orientation.” And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a video clip to a recent gathering of the LGBT community in which he expressed support for every member to live as they wish.

Israeli society is gay friendly, at least in the Tel Aviv area, and some of the legislation and precedent-setting court rulings on gay rights are groundbreaking. But the progress and prominence of the Israeli LGBT community runs counter to the religious underpinnings of Israeli society and clashes continuously with the dramatic march forward of LGBT rights in the West.

Attitudes among those sectors of Israeli society, which view homosexual sex is a violation of Jewish law and morality, have clearly not changed. The same is true for most parties representing Israel’s Arab minority, which is still largely a conservative society with a strong Muslim influence.

Previously, Israel has had three openly gay individuals serve – Uzi Even and Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz and Itzik Shmuli of Zionist Union.

Shmuli, the only sitting LGBT Knesset member, came out of the closet in late July following a stabbing at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade that killed one and injured five.