April 8, 2019 at 2:47 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Netanyahu meets with Israeli LGBTI activists
Benjamin Netanyahu, gay news, Washington Blade
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 7, 2019, met with a group of LGBTI activists at his official residence in Jerusalem. (Photo by Cherie Cullen; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday met with a group of LGBTI rights advocates on the eve of his country’s election.

Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance Chair Eran Globus is among the activists who attended the hour-long meeting that took place at Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem. Globus on Monday told the Washington Blade during a WhatsApp interview that representatives of the Aguda, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, and Amir Ohana, an openly gay member of the Israeli Knesset who is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, are among those who were also in attendance.

Globus said Netanyahu and his wife welcomed the activists “very warmly.”

Globus told the Blade they talked with Netanyahu about hate crimes, hate speech on social media and the “general atmosphere” for LGBTI Israelis.

Netanyahu, according to Globus, pointed out he was the first Israeli politician to condemn the murder of Shira Banki, a 16-year-old teenager who was stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox man during the 2015 Jerusalem Pride parade. Globus said Netanyahu also talked about discrimination based on gender identity in Israel’s health care system, government funding to Jerusalem Open House and other advocacy groups and efforts to support LGBTI teenagers.

“His words were very powerful,” Globus told the Blade. “I got the impression that he’s sincere, that he’s honest.” 

Globus added Netanyahu nevertheless told the activists not to expect progress on surrogacy and other LGBTI-specific issues in the Knesset if he wins re-election because he will have to form a coalition government with Orthodox parties.

“He said because we have to rely on them to make a coalition … we will not be able to offer you things that you want,” said Globus.

Globus said Netanyahu attacked Benny Gantz, his primary challenger, when the activists asked him whether he would require parties with which he wants to build a coalition government to support LGBTI rights.

“We asked Netanyahu to give us a similar statement to equal what Gantz said,” Globus told the Blade. “Netanyahu said very plainly he’s not going to make such a statement. He said we shouldn’t believe the statement Gantz gave us.”

Globus said Sunday’s meeting is the first time Netanyahu has met with LGBTI activists in a decade, even though the prime minister in 2016 spoke with advocates who were at the Knesset.

The Times of Israel, an online newspaper, reported many activists sharply criticized Netanyahu’s comments.

Globus described them as a “sobering and sad message” that was “honest.” He also described the meeting as “good.”

“It’s important to give Israeli society a clear understanding of where politicians stand,” said Globus.

Trump among Netanyahu supporters

Netanyahu faces a tough re-election race amid allegations of corruption and continued global outrage over the Israeli government’s policies towards the Palestinians.

Gaza Strip, gay news, Washington Blade
The Nahal Oz Border Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Nov. 21, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

President Trump last month announced the U.S. would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a plateau above the Sea of Galilee the country seized from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967. The Trump administration last year moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after it recognized the city as Israel’s capital.

Globus pointed out to the Blade that Netanyahu in his speech at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference last month said there are “no second-class citizens in Israel.” Globus described the comments as “false” as he noted LGBTI Israelis continue to face discrimination and violence in their country.

“People were very upset about that,” said Globus.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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