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Israel’s openly gay Deputy Foreign Minister this week rejected the idea that his country’s government promotes LGBTQ rights in order to distract from its policies towards Palestinians.

“I would never, ever put myself in a position where I would be the face of ‘pinkwashing’ in my role because I am convinced that there is no such thing in Israel,” Idan Roll said. at the Washington Blade Wednesday during an interview at the Riggs Hotel in downtown DC

Roll, 37, spoke to the Blade at the end of a 4-day trip to Washington, which took place less than six months after eight political parties formed a coalition government that toppled the prime minister longtime Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Knesset earlier this month passed Israel’s first national budget in three years. Roll, who is the youngest person in the Israeli government, told the Blade that he is allocating $ 30 million (NIS 90 million) to LGBTQ organizations across the country.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced in August that Israel had lifted restrictions on blood donation from men who have sex with men. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in July that same-sex couples and single men should be allowed to have a child through a surrogate mother.

On November 12, a group of teenagers attacked a group of LGBTQ youth near Jerusalem’s main bus station on their way to a transgender rights conference in Tel Aviv. Neil Patrick Harris is among the actors who have expressed support for the Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival amid calls from supporters of the BDS (boycott, economic divestment and sanctions) movement to boycott it because of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.

Roll acknowledged that Israel does not extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, but he also pointed out to the Blade that the country also does not have “civil marriage for heterosexuals” because marriage in the Jewish state is a religious institution. Roll noted that he was one of the openly LGBTQ people in the Israeli government and that they “lived full and fulfilled lives.”

“Are we perfect? he asked rhetorically. “No. Are we one of the best places in the world for gay people? Sure, and I feel safe. And I feel welcome. And I feel empowered and I feel the best is. future.

Roll told The Blade that the idea of ​​”pinkwashing” stems from the fact that “not everyone is as informed as others about life in Israel.”

“It is something that is a task of this new government and of our ministry, to better convey the history of Israel, and it is a wonderful, complex and diverse history,” he said.

Roll also stressed that he “would like people to stop pinning one thing against another.”

“The fact that we are doing a great job for LGBTQ equality is not eliminated, erased or canceled just because we also have to deal with a very complex conflict, which is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. . “The promotion of progressive values ​​is always something worth mentioning, and we are working to improve the lives of Palestinians in humanitarian and economic terms. Things are not as black and white as they are described.

The separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank seen from a gas station in Bethlehem, West Bank, November 12, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Roll lives in Tel Aviv with her husband, Harel Skaat, an Israeli pop star whom he married in Utah in March, and their two children whom they had through surrogate mothers in the United States.

Lawyer and former model member of the centrist party Yesh Atid founded Pride Front, a group that encourages LGBTQ Israelis to get involved in the country’s political process. Roll told the Blade that he decided to run for office after he and her husband started their family.

“It was quite a struggle,” he said, noting that their second child was born to a surrogate in Oklahoma. “And then I was struck by the fact that I had to practice what I preach. I should not only encourage others to take political action and move forward, but I should also take the lead. “

Roll in 2019 won a seat in the Israeli Knesset. Lapid appointed Roll as deputy foreign minister after the new government took office.

“I am a very young member of this government… and I am an openly gay member of this government,” Roll said. “I am very grateful for the life I have been able to create for myself in Israel. “

“It’s a story that I feel like I can describe in a very authentic way and I think it’s a story that needs to be told outside of Israel,” he added. “I’m also very proud to be part of the new face of a new government that is doing things differently and in a way that I think now allows people of all different ethnicities, colors and agendas to find someone. who they can identify with in this government. . ”

Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Idan roll (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

US Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), US Rep. Ritchie Torres (DN.Y.) and other members of the Congressional LGBTQ + Equality Caucus are among those who met Roll when he was in Washington. at George Washington University.

“We have a new government, and the new government is really different in a lot of ways,” Roll told The Blade. “It is the most diverse government in our history and in a way the most diverse reflection of a very diverse society. “

He said one of the reasons he visited Washington was “to reach out and start a dialogue.” Roll also stressed that Israel “has always been a bipartisan issue.

“It is crucial that it stays that way and we intend to do so,” he said. “The United States is the most valuable and important ally we have and you must cultivate a relationship.”

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