Gay MK ‘worried, anxious and frightened’ election will give hate a foothold
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Gay MK ‘worried, anxious and frightened’ election will give hate a foothold

Yesh Atid politician Yorai Lahav-Hertzano airs concern about the possibility of far-right and Kahanist politicians getting into office

Yorai Lahav-Hertzano of Yesh Atid: ‘The election is a battle on the core values of Israel’
Yorai Lahav-Hertzano of Yesh Atid: ‘The election is a battle on the core values of Israel’

The gay MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano is “worried, anxious and frightened” that next week’s election will give homophobia a foothold in Knesset.

The Yesh Atid politician is concerned about the far-right ticket on 23 March and feels that the mainstream Likud party has given anti-gay ideology a stamp of approval.

“The election is a battle on the core values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country,” he told Jewish News, saying the far-right’s combination of Kahanists and anti-LGBT activists flies in the face of the country’s founding ideals. 

The Hatzionut Hadati ticket includes Noam, which seeks to advance policies against LGBT rights, and Otzma Yehudi, led by followers of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was banned from the Knesset in the 1980s. 

Otzma Yehudi is run by some of Kahane’s disciples. They are anti-Arab, and in some instances strongly anti-LGBT rights too. Party founder and former Kahane spokesman Baruch Marzel once took three “proud donkeys” to a Jerusalem Pride Parade to ridicule the LGBTQ community. 

Lahav-Hertzano believes that if it weren’t for Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to get the three extremist factions — Hatzionut Hadati, Otzma Yehudi, and Noam — to unite on a single ticket, they would have run separately and failed to meet the election threshold and win seats. After bringing the groupings together, Netanyahu had his Likud party sign a “vote-sharing” agreement, which means that, under certain circumstances the parties may receive some of each other’s votes. A Knesset showing for Hatzionut Hadati makes the right-wing more powerful and boosts Netanyahu’s chances of heading the next government. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by: Maya Alleruzzo, Pool Via JINIPIX

“Netanyahu has actually brought Kahanists and Noam into Knesset politics,” said Lahav-Hertzano. “It’s really dangerous.” He believes that the election “is now about whether we want stable government headed by a moderate and liberal centre, or a fanatical government”.

He claims that the agreement is symptomatic of Likud becoming focused solely on Netanyahu’s political survival and believes that the PM is trying to build a coalition that will grant him immunity from prosecution, thus nixing his ongoing corruption trial. “The Likud was a national and liberal party, but now it has no ideology except rescuing its leader,” he argued. 

Lahav-Hertzano says he had a chance to become a deputy minister in the current Netanyahu-led government but refused out of principle. In the last election Yesh Atid ran together with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. Lahav-Hertzano claimed that Gantz, on leaving the opposition benches to join Netanyahu’s government in the spring, asked him to also make the move, with the lure of a job in government. 

Months on, he remains livid that Gantz, who built his political career on fighting Netanyahu, made the switch. “[Gantz] is a big failure,” said Lahav-Hertzano, 32. “And his biggest failing is that there’s a rift between the young people of Israel and the political establishment. I don’t know how many years or decades it’ll take to repair the rupture that he caused in terms of the trust of my generation towards politics.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz . Photo by: Tal Shahar, Yediot Ahronot, Pool Via JINIPIX

Lahav-Hertzano, and Yesh Atid in general, have been highly critical of the government’s pandemic management. “It’s unacceptable that thousands of citizens have been stranded abroad,” he said. He has been advocating on behalf of some Israelis in the UK, and Brits waiting to immigrate. “I am in contact with some with olim stuck in London who have sold their house and have nowhere to be,” he said. “I ask myself if this is the treatment for people who are taking the ultimate Zionist step of moving to Israel. It’s an embarrassment.”

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