‘It’s hard out here for a pimp,” as the Three-Six Mafia once said so eloquently, and had the song been written in the Israel of 2015, they might have added, “As well as for a suspected casino manager who has political aspirations and an alleged taste for crystal meth.”
The saga of Israel’s own bumbling Bulworth – Likud MK Oren Hazan – took a not-at-all unexpected turn Tuesday, as the lawmaker was suspended from his duties as a deputy Knesset speaker amid mounting allegations that he smoked crystal meth and ran prostitutes for clients while running a casino in Bulgaria, and the press is on it like Jesse Pinkman on a bag of Blue Sky.
“How did he get to the Knesset,” laments the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth, which runs a full-page picture of a ponytailed Hazan counting chips at a gaming table.
The paper includes a rundown of all the allegations against the MK, including a picture of the casino he’s accused of having run courtesy of Google street view, and quotes Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein as saying he told Hazan, who offered to take a polygraph to prove his innocence, “Take five polygraphs, not one.”
The paper reports that instead Hazan, given half an hour to decide if he would take a lie detector test, went and tweeted that Edelstein sent him home to talk to his lawyer about suing Channel 2, which published the original expose, angering the Knesset speaker, who then ordered he be suspended.
Edelstein aside, Yedioth Knesset commentator Sima Kadmon notes that she is disturbed by the silence from other lawmakers, given the tales of debauchery surfacing about their colleague.
“We don’t know what will come out of the probe or investigation on Hazan’s deeds in Bulgaria, nor what will be done once the results come out. There’s a certain justice as well to the claim that before things are made clear, it’s impossible to decide a person’s fate. But that doesn’t justify the deafening silence yesterday from the Knesset members from all camps who filled their mouths with water and refused to say a word yesterday on what was uncovered,” she writes.
“It seems to me that everyone understands that someone who ran a casino, is seen in pictures that are not dignified and who has testimonies against him on all sorts of embarrassments cannot be the Likud youth representative in the Knesset, the position Hazan was elected to after running against [Moshe] Feiglin’s aide. Netanyahu so much wanted Feiglin out that Hazan was on his preferred Knesset slate. Yesterday Netanyahu’s voice was not heard.”
Even if nobody opened their mouths, the treatment of the story by Israel Hayom, thought to be a sort-of Netanyahu mouthpiece, leaves no doubt as to how the Likud brass are taking the news.
The paper reports that Netanyahu turned to Edelstein to explore different options of taking care of the affair, though they may be stymied by the fact that Hazan wasn’t convicted of a crime. But that may matter little.
“Sources in the Likud say it’s possible there will soon be an internal party probe to determine the options available to Netanyahu regarding Hazan’s future in the party,” the paper reports.
Out damn MK
While Yedioth’s Kadmon slammed opposition head Isaac Herzog for agreeing to an offsetting agreement that will keep Hazan from being able to fell the government, Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit praises the move as taking away the one way Hazan could flex some muscles, but calls on the prime minister to make hay out of the leeway he’s been given.
“Herzog’s move freed Netanyahu from Hazan’s bonds. Now it’s the prime minister’s turn to put every effort into booting him from the Knesset,” he writes.
In Haaretz, commentator Amir Oren wonders why Netanyahu is suddenly up in arms over a casino when one of his greatest patrons, Israel Hayom publisher Sheldon Adelson, sits himself on a throne of broken blackjack dreams.
“The news is that ‘casino’ has suddenly turned into a dirty word. Somebody will have to tell Sheldon Adelson,” he writes, his pen dripping with sarcasm. “Indeed, from now will Netanyahu distance himself from Adelson’s patronage? Will he ask to cancel his subscription to the daily [Israel Hayom] paid for by gambling money? What’s the difference between Las Vegas and Burgas? And anyway, will he believe – he has to believe – the vociferous denials by Adelson of the claims of Steven Jacobson, a former employee of a casino in Macau, that executives encouraged prostitution to attract customers.”
Art of the state
The Oren hazan saga: drugs, prostitute, power, intrigue, this, would make for a great play, but producers of “I Can Haz an Amp: The Oren Hazan story” shouldn’t expect to get any government funding if the play espouses Palestinian views or actors refuse to put it on in the West Bank, at least according to a growing cultural battle that also garners major headlines Wednesday.
The firestorm follows the announcement that Education Minister Naftali Bennett won’t allow funding for a play about a terrorist and Miri Regev’s statement that she won’t fund a theater started by an actor, Norman Issa, who refuses to work beyond the Green Line, and Haaretz warns the backlash from the arts community could be fierce.
“’If Regev goes through with her threats, the Israeli theaters need to strike,’ warned a senior administrator in an Israeli theater, who expresses hope that museums and all other cultural institutions will also take part,” the paper reports.
With the headline: “Boycotting, not on our dime,” Israel Hayom seems to delight in Regev’s threats following the paper’s report a day earlier on Issa’s refusal. The paper quotes Issa’s defense at length, as he notes that the issue is not new and that in every theater those who do not want to act in the West Bank are replaced by the theater for those performances.
“Unfortunately, the theater, for its own reasons, didn’t do this. To my great dismay, I stand now against the threats of the culture and sports minister, Ms. Miri Regev, to discuss anew the budget for the theater I and my wife started with our own hands. The pressure on me borders on extortion,” he’s quoted saying. “This theater is more important that anything to me and my wife. Please, don’t force me to act against my moral compass just to get rid of this threat.”