Knesset hopeful Yinon Magal revealed in an interview Sunday that he “recently” smoked marijuana, which is illegal in Israel without a medical permit.
Magal, a candidate for the conservative Jewish Home party, was posed a series of questions by Channel 2 news anchor Oded Ben-Ami, who at one point asked nonchalantly: “Have you smoked drugs?”
“Yes,” Magal said, without hesitation.
Until this week, Magal served as the editor-in-chief of the popular Hebrew-language news website Walla, where he openly advocated marijuana use.
“You smoked. When was this?” Ben-Ami pressed.
“In the past, you know, it happened,” Magal responded casually.
“When was the last time you tried it, more or less?” Ben-Ami asked.
“Pretty recently,” responded Magal.
Magal, 45, served in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance) commando unit, and then worked as a reporter for Army Radio and Channel 10 and a news anchor on Channel 1.
When Ben-Ami asked if Magal had also done hard drugs, Magal mentioned that he had, at one time, visited a western Indian state popular with Israeli tourists for its exquisite beaches and psychedelic drug scene.
“Don’t forget I was also in Goa, but that was 15 years ago,” he said, perhaps hinting that he had experimented with psychedelics. “As you know, what happens in Goa stays in Goa.”
As editor of Walla, Magal stoked controversy in April when he participated in a contentious segment that slammed the prohibition of marijuana and featured a reporter rolling and smoking a joint.
The clip was removed from Walla’s website later that day.
On Sunday, Magal denied to Channel 2 that the cigarette smoked during the filming of the segment had, in fact, contained marijuana.
Magal’s candidacy was announced on Saturday night in a YouTube clip posted by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, the chairman of the Jewish Home party.
“I am an Israeli, and I am not embarrassed that I love this land and am moved by the national anthem,” Magal said in the clip.
During the summer war with Hamas in Gaza, Magal came under fire for unabashedly declaring that he was an Israeli patriot first, and only then a journalist.
Bennett emphatically praised Magal — who observes Shabbat, but does not wear a skullcap — throughout the 98-second video.
“Yinon will give strength to the Jewish Home and represents many new voters who are joining us and accept the values of religious Zionism — and aren’t apologizing for it,” Bennett said of his newest party member.
The question of marijuana use has come up during election campaigns in Israel, where the only parties to actively advocate the legalization of marijuana are the left-wing Meretz party and the libertarian Green Leaf party, which has yet to cross the electoral threshold.
In the run-up to the January 2013 elections, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid repeatedly affirmed that he had never used marijuana, despite statements to the contrary by former friends, including celebrities.
“As a childhood friend of his, I can attest — he never smoked joints, in his life,” Actress Dafna Rechter told Israel’s Cannabis magazine. “Only bongs.”
Magal is expected to be placed near the top of Jewish Home’s list, essentially assuring that he will be inducted into the Knesset after the March 2015 elections without requiring that he run in the party primary.
The Knesset hopeful will potentially join a host of other MKs who have publicly admitted to using soft drugs.
The MKs — 11 in the current session — are all representatives of centrist and left-wing parties (Likud MK Moshe Feiglin is pro-legalization without admitting to having used the drug), an invitation, perhaps, for Magal to reach across the aisle and engage in bipartisan politics.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report