בן גביר-נתניהו-סמוטריץ | דוד דנברג | איתן פולד | CC BY-SA 3.0
More then 4 million Israelis voted in the elections that took place on Tuesday.
After five election campaigns in three and a half years, as of now it seems that the tie between the two (political) blocs has been broken. Benjamin Netanyahu will once again be prime minister and he will be the one to form the next government.
The results that are slowly coming in are extremely worrying for many Israelis, including members of the LGBTQ community.
The far right Hatzionut Hadatit (Religious Zionist Party), which includes Bezalel Smotrich, the organizer of the infamous Cattle Parade, a parade of cattle that marched at the same time as the Jerusalem Pride Parade, did well. Itamar Ben Gvir, who regularly protests against Pride parades and supports so-called conversion therapy, and Avi Maoz, whose anti-LGBTQ agenda is based on preserving family values, are also members of the party.
The Otzma Yehudit party and Hatzionut Hadatit include new, unfamiliar figures who may turn out to be much more extreme than Smotrich and Ben Gvir in regards to their attitudes towards LGBTQ people, women and other minorities.
Does the LGBTQ community have to worry about the election results?
Even before the formation of the government, it is already clear that LGBTQ representation in the Knesset will decrease. After a Knesset with five openly LGBTQ representatives, the next Knesset will have only three LGBTQ members and they will all be men: Amir Ohana from the Likud party and Yorai Lahav and Idan Roll from Yesh Atid.
Another concern for the LGBTQ community is the fear that Meretz, the first party that supported LGBTQ rights and has historically been the political home for the members of the LGBTQ community, will not earn enough seats to get its representatives into the Knesset, which would give the Netanyahu bloc a crushing victory.
The achievements achieved by the LGBTQ community in the previous Knesset may also be in danger.
The LGBTQ community over the past year has managed to achieve a number of significant achievements that include the repeal of the ban on gay men from donating blood, the approval of surrogacy for male couples, reforms of the Committee for Gender Reassignment, the promotion of activities for LGBTQ Arabs and a budget of 90 million NIS ($24,460,991) for local authorities all over the country to carrying out activities for the benefit of the LGBTQ community.
Due to the complexity of the previous government that was made up of different parties from all ends of the political spectrum — from Naftali Bennett on the right to Meretz and Ra’am on the left — all of these achievements did not come through legislation, but through regulations that various ministers implemented. This fact may be to the community’s detriment, because new government ministers could just as easily reverse them.
The far-right’s goal of reforming the justice system could also hurt LGBTQ achievements, some of which resulted from Supreme Court decisions. The legislation of the Override Clause will give the Knesset the authority to re-enact a law that the High Court has invalidated, thereby overruling Supreme Court decisions.
Poll indicates most LGBTQ Israelis fear right-wing government
In a study the Israeli Institute for Gender and LGBTQ Research at the Aguda conducted before the election, 87 percent of LGBTQ Israelis said that they fear the next Knesset will violate their rights. This fear is not only from the lack of promotion of pro-LGBTQ legislation, but also from the promotion of regulations and laws that will actively harm LGBTQ organizations.
If the right-wing government fulfills its promises, it would remove the LGBTQ education organization Hoshen from schools, end financial support for Israel Gay Youth, ban hormone treatments for transgender people and provide financial support for organizations that offer conversion therapy. And as we have learned during all the years of the LGBTQ struggle, when public figures incite against members of the community, this affects the public and the verbal cancellation turns into discrimination of LGBTQ people in businesses, bullying in schools against LGBTQ students and physical assaults in the street.
How LGBTQphobic will the next government be?
The results of the elections in Israel are the will of the Israeli voter. The people of Israel gave a significant power to parties that seek to harm the rights of the LGBTQ community, but these parties were not necessarily elected due to being anti-LGBTQ.
The fact that Ben Gvir and Smotrich and their parties received significant support is not necessarily about LGBTQ issues, but it is mainly based on the state of internal security in Israel. Violence and crime in large areas of the country that have become no man’s land, the internal terrorism that culminated in riots in Arab Jewish cities in May 2021, and the disappointment of many from the right-wing parties that entered the last government together with an Arab party caused many voters, some of them LGBTQ, to vote for extreme right-wing parties.
Another parameter that helped Ben Gvir and Smotrich in the election is the timing.
They entered an election system in which there is no other right-wing party except Likud. All the right-wing leaders (Avigdor Lieberman, Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar) moved towards the center-left and new, more extreme right-wing leaders who previously failed to enter the Knesset filled the vacuum.
The people of Israel are patiently waiting to see what the results will be and how the map of the blocks will look. We still won’t know which government will be formed, even after the final results are announced. Netanyahu will receive the mandate from the president and will begin the task of forming the government, which history has already taught us is impossible to predict how it will end. Israeli politics is unpredictable and full of surprises, and any possibility we didn’t think about can become a reality.
It is likely that in the first phase Netanyahu will choose to form a narrow right-wing government with his natural ultra-orthodox and Religious Zionist partners. In this case, Netanyahu will depend on extremist Zionist elements, such as Smotrich and Ben Gvir, and even Maoz, each of whom has the power to topple the government.
The question is whether those parties will use their power to harm LGBTQ achievements and even enact anti-LGBTQ laws, and if so, how will the more liberal Likud members, LGBTQ members and their supporters, will react to these proposals, and whether both parties will be willing to endanger the right-wing government on this subject?
Later, difficulties at home, including excessive demands of the extreme parties, or international pressure from the outside, may cause Netanyahu to strive to expand the government, and perhaps even to replace the extreme elements with more moderate centrist elements such as Benny Gantz. Such a government would be less anti-LGBTQ, but even here the chance of promoting LGBTQ issues is almost non existent, and it is likely that there will be no progress with what will remain. No anti-LGBTQ laws will be promoted either.
Two points to consider
The first one is how the new Knesset members who proudly declared themselves to be LGBTQphobic will sit in a coalition and cooperated with Ohana, a gay MP and a father for two children who he had via surrogate.
The second one is how will Netanyahu and the secular Likud members deal with the extreme demands of the religious parties, which range from the closing of places of entertainment on Shabbat, the termination of women’s service in the IDF, and the application of Torah laws to the judicial system.
“Just as the outgoing government protected the rights of all citizens of the country, the incoming government is also expected to do the same.,” outgoing Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, a member of the LGBTQ community who will not enter the next Knesset, said. “If Smotrich or Ben Gvir think they will harm women’s rights, LGBTQ or Arabs, a large and strong front will stand in front of them and will prevent this from them.”
Will the opposition to this new government will be strong and determine enough to stop these scenarios from happening?
Only time will tell.
This article was written for the Washington Blade WDG’s media partner in USA.