Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein ordered police to proceed with an investigation into a complaint that Likud MK Oren Hazan, who has made headlines recently for a series of scandals, assaulted a city mayor last year, media reported on Tuesday.
Weinstein made the decision several days ago, ordering police to continue their probe of the case, which reportedly involved a heated clash in 2014 between Hazan and Eli Shaviro, the mayor of the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
Both sides filed complaints against each other but once Hazan became a member of Knesset following the March 2015 elections, police needed Weinstein’s approval to continue with the investigation.
News of the development was just the latest in a series of allegations against Hazan.
On Monday evening, a number of women told the Israeli media that he sexually harassed them when they worked for him at a bar several years ago.
Channel 10 broadcast the testimonies only a week after a television exposé tied Hazan to the management of a casino in Bulgaria, where he purportedly bought and smoked crystal meth and, to boot, regularly hired prostitutes for gamblers who were visiting his establishment. Hazan denies the allegations.
According to Monday’s report, a number of young women formerly employed by Hazan, at the Hotel Fleisher bar in Tel Aviv, came forward and said the 33-year-old freshman lawmaker would often touch them inappropriately, brush up against them as if it was unintentional and take off his clothes after nights of heavy drinking.
“Whenever we were in a tight space, he would brush up against me from behind, with his groin pressed onto my backside and would grab my waist while trying to get past me,” a woman, identified as M., said of his conduct. According to M., after incidents like this Hazan would tell his bar staff, “I accidentally touched you, don’t think I did anything wrong.”
M. said it was rare for women to walk by Hazan without being groped. In her testimony, she recounted being afraid to stay late at the bar with Hazan, who was often drunk by closing time. She also said that, after work, he would often invite her up to his apartment, which she said was furnished with only a bed.
Another woman, K., said that when drinking, Hazan would take off his clothes or would climb on the bar and pull his pants down, exposing his backside to bar patrons, saying, “Everybody look, it’s my butt.”
Hazan denied the claims shortly after the report aired.
“After I’ve been accused of dealing drugs, trafficking women and being a spy, it was inevitable that you would stoop to this new low and accuse me of this. Not only is there no truth in these allegations, it’s a clear, destructive and unfair attempt to turn a Knesset member into a punching bag,” he said.
The initial exposé that aired last week on Channel 2 accused Hazan of drug use and solicitation of prostitution, but it did not accuse him of human trafficking or espionage.
In light of last week’s claims, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein banned Hazan from presiding over any Knesset meetings.
A number of politicians have denounced Hazan’s behavior.
In the Channel 2 report, titled “Prostitutes, drugs and the deputy speaker of the Knesset,” two Israeli tourists and a casino employee said that Hazan would provide prostitutes for his guests in the Burgas casino, in which he held a stake. Both prostitution and hard-drug use are illegal in Bulgaria.
The report quoted Hazan’s chauffeur in Bulgaria to the effect that Hazan would send him to the Red Rose escort service to pick up prostitutes a few times a week for his friends. Hazan would cover the cost of the prostitutes, at some €50 ($56) an hour, the driver said.
Hazan has maintained that he never managed the casino, but rather a hotel “where there was also a casino,” and that it was managed by a person he had no contact with.
According to the report, however, the casino in question is not inside a hotel, and the hotel he claimed to have managed has had the same management for over 20 years — and it is not Hazan.
According to a report on Channel 1 last week, soon after the swearing-in ceremony Knesset members in May, a Bulgarian official contacted Israeli officials and asked that Hazan not be involved in any dealings between the two countries.