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Amir Ohana

(1976 - )

Amir Ohana (Hebrew: אָמִיר אוֹחָנָה) was born on March 15, 1976, in Beersheba, the third son of Meir and Esther Ohana, immigrants from Morocco. In his youth, his family moved to Lehavim and Rishon Le-Zion.

In 1994, Ohana enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces and served as a road accident investigator in the Military Police. His job involved securing traffic arteries in the Gaza Strip and as a road accident investigator in southern Israel. After completing an officer’s course, he became a commander of the Karni crossing. He also commanded a military police base.

After leaving regular military service, he served in Shin Bet for another six years, where he held positions related to intelligence and the fight against terror.

Ohana studied law at the College of Management Academic Studies, and after earning an LLB, he interned with the Israeli Justice Ministry in the State Prosecutor’s Office. He then worked as a lawyer in criminal law for a decade.

The chairman of the Likud gay caucus Likud Pride, Ohana was not high enough on the party list to win a seat in the Knesset until 2015, when he replaced Silvan Shalom after he resigned amidst a sexual harassment scandal.

During his first term in the Knesset, he served as a member of the Finance Committee and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, as well as chairing the Lobby for Shaping the Gun-Carrying Policy in Israel and joining the Lobby for Medical Cannabis. He also became co-chair of the Israel–Japan Parliamentary Friendship Group.

When opposition members of Knesset in February 2016 proposed several bills intended to improve the gay community’s status, such as recognizing bereaved widowers, banning conversion therapy, recognizing same-sex marriage contracts, and to train health professionals to deal with gender and sexual inclination issues, Ohana left the session without voting; he said he could not vote against these bills, but he did not want to violate the party line.

After being re-elected in the April 2019 elections, he was appointed Minister of Justice in June, becoming the first openly LGBT individual to serve in the government. Ohana was considered a Netanyahu loyalist and supported exempting the prime minister from prosecution for corruption.

He was re-elected in September 2019 and March 2020. In May 2020, he was appointed Minister of Public Security in the new government. In July 2020, he resigned from the Knesset.

Ohana was reelected in the 2021 elections and joined the opposition. After the short-lived center-left government was defeated in the 2022 electionBenjamin Netanyahu returned to power. Ohana was elected Speaker of the Knesset on December 29, becoming the first LGBT Speaker in Israeli history. After his election, he became the target of homophobic verbal attacks from some rabbis and Haredi MKs.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of Tadmor - Eretz Yisrael Loyalists Group in the Likud and the Manof Forum for young liberals in the Likud.

He is not considered an LGBTQ activist; nevertheless, he could be an important role model for the community. As Akiva Novick noted:

The first speech by a coalition member following the government’s inauguration, in which Ohana thanked his husband “for Chai (18) years now,” was particularly significant. Its importance does not lie in what TV critics or famous LGBTQ activists think about it, but rather its impact on a closeted gay person from an ultra-Orthodox city or the periphery, places where it’s harder to be gay. That boy, that girl, see Itamar Ben-Gvir hug Ohana, see the Haredim vote for him, see how naturally his family is accepted in Likud. That is the true test.

Ohana and his husband, Alon Hadad, have a son and daughter. They live in Tel Aviv.

Sources: “Amir Ohana,” Wikipedia.
“Amir Ohana,” The Knesset.
Akiva Novick, “The Most Important Gay Person in Israel,” Haaretz, (January 4, 2023).

Photo: Yonatano~hewiki, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.