Likud MK Amir Ohana was sworn into the Knesset on Monday following the resignation of former minister Silvan Shalom. In his inaugural speech before the Knesset Plenum, Ohana said ”I am here with all of who I am and what I am, what I’ve chosen and what I haven’t, and am proud of this: Jewish, Israeli, Mizrahi, gay, Likudnik, security-ist, liberal and a free-market-economy man.”
”What comes first?” he asked. ”When people shout itbach al Yahud [Arabic for `kill the Jews`], I am a Jew. When they shoot, boycott, label and expel, I am a settler…When soldiers are defamed, I am a soldier.”
When speaking about the defamation of IDF soldiers, Ohana was referring to the recent controversy over the Breaking the Silence NGO, which documents alleged abuses by IDF soldiers.
Ohana also sided with the residents of south Tel Aviv, who have long complained about the influx of African migrants from Sudan and Eritrea.
”When entire neighborhoods are not as they were, and the elderly are forced to live out the remainder of their lives in fear — I am a south Tel Aviv resident. And when the outside appearance of a man is considered a good reason to hate him, to distance him from neighborhoods and employment — I am an ultra-Orthodox Jew who is not afraid,” he said.
”When a baby is burned with his relatives, dammit, I’m with you, brothers,” Ohana said, finishing his sentence in Arabic. Ohana was referring to the fatal firebombing in the village of Duma, in which three members of the Palestinian Dawabsha family were killed.
”When they stab to death – a young woman in the parade of love and tolerance – I’m gay, a gay person who does not hope the day will come but gets up and supplies it. A gay person who understands that the flag we carry, lesbians and gay men, trans and bi, is the rainbow flag.” The latter comment was a reference to the murder of Shira Banki in the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade last summer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the ceremony and gave his blessing from the Knesset podium.
”I want to make a clear point that may not be clear. Amir is the first clear, candid representative of the gay community who was elected in an open primary when he was completely out [of the closet]. He was elected by thousands of voters in the Likud primary,” Netanyahu said.
”Amir represents very well our view of liberal nationalism. He believes in the rights of the Jewish people in their land, in protecting the country’s security, civil rights, capitalist economics and a free market.”
Netanyahu added: ”I’ve had the chance to work with him. He is pleasant but firm in his opinions, steadfast in his principles, and I think he will be an excellent Knesset member and a bridge between different parts of the public. I receive him with respect and pride.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp( said he hoped Ohana and the rest of the coalition members would support the opposition`s attempts to improve the standing of Israel’s gay community through legislation.