Likud MK Oren Hazan on Monday was banned by the Knesset Ethics Committee from attending plenary and committee meetings for a week due to his intimidating behavior against a Meretz MK in an on-air TV interview, in a stunt he said was coordinated with the hosting television channel.
Meretz MK Michal Rozin lodged a complaint against Hazan for “violent and threatening behavior” over his actions during an April event co-hosted by the left-wing political party and the Breaking the Silence NGO.
During an interview with Channel 20 at the event, Hazan stood close to Rozin while shouting at her to “join the army of Hamas” and “join the army of Assad,” until the lawmaker walked off screen.
Hazan told the Ethics Committee the entire confrontation was staged in coordination with the right-wing TV station and was well within his rights to freedom of speech.
“The incident was coordinated with Channel 20. It wasn’t for nothing that I had a earpiece and a microphone set up,” he was quoted as telling the committee on June 13. “It was a trap, she fell into the trap… I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
“It wasn’t an outburst, I was invited to the broadcast,” he added.
In its decision, the committee said Hazan’s behavior was out of bounds.
“Indeed, debates in the media between Knesset members can be fierce and even deteriorate into yelling and difficult exchanges, but we can in no way accept the sort of behavior displayed by MK Hazan during the event,” it said.
It also rejected his freedom of speech defense.
Noting that this was not the first infraction by the Likud MK, the committee banned Hazan from the plenum and committees for a one-week period. The lawmaker will be allowed into the plenum to vote, it said.
Hazan, who entered the Knesset in the last election, has become known as the enfant terrible of Israel’s parliament.
Shortly after he entered politics, a Channel 2 expose alleged that Hazan had previously run a casino in Bulgaria where hard drugs and prostitution were allowed. He sued the station’s journalist Amit Segal for libel but the court rejected the bulk of the lawsuit.
In December 2015, the Knesset Ethics Committee also suspended Hazan from participating in parliamentary debates for a month due to a series of complaints against him. A month earlier, he mocked a fellow lawmaker’s disability in the plenum. In February 2016, Hazan was again suspended from the committee hearings, this time by his own Likud party after he skipped a plenum vote resulting in a loss for the party.
Hazan was also suspected of assaulting a senior official in the municipality of the West Bank town of Ariel in 2014 in an apparent dispute over a debt. After the city froze his bank account, Hazan went to the office, where he cursed and pushed the municipal director, the statement said.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.