Right-wing Ohana is first openly gay minister

Amir Ohana. Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Benjamin Netanyahu shunned a self-declared homophobe for the job of Justice Minister – and appointed the country’s most prominent gay politician instead. 

Amir Ohana, who rose to prominence as head of the Pride faction in the right-wing Likud party, is Israel’s first openly gay government minister. Netanyahu passed over United Right’s Bezalel Smotrich, a radical settler who once organised a “beast parade” with animals to mock Jerusalem’s Pride Parade. 

Ohana’s appointment has brought mixed reactions in Israel’s LGBTQ community, which tends to align left-of-centre on political issues. Ohana is on the right flank of Likud. 

This political gulf between Ohana and much of the Israeli LGBTQ community meant that when he went to the Jerusalem Pride Parade last week, he was booed as protesters held a poster saying that he “doesn’t represent” them. 

One of the major complaints heard against Ohana is that he headed the committee what wrote the Nation State Law, which many Israelis claim undermines the rights of minorities. Another is that he is believed to be open to advancing legislation that could give Netanyahu, who faces corruption cases, immunity from prosecution. 

He is being heralded by the right wing as a politician who will stop what it sees as the dominance of left-wing values in Israel’s legal system. In his first speech as minister Ohana said that the justice system is today “the least democratic of the three branches” of government, and said that he will “mend” problems.