Bad-boy Likud MK slapped with 6-month ban on Knesset activities

Ethics Committee says Oren Hazan has ‘disgraced the Knesset, taking it to an unprecedented low’; hands him maximum penalty for insulting fellow lawmakers

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Illustrative: Likud MK Oren Hazan speaking during a Knesset plenary session, November 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: Likud MK Oren Hazan speaking during a Knesset plenary session, November 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Plagued with scandals since entering the Knesset two years ago, Likud lawmaker Oren Hazan was slapped with a six-month ban on parliamentary activities Wednesday, with the Knesset Ethics Committee handing him the maximum possible punishment for a series of incidents in which he insulted his fellow lawmakers.

The committee, which is made up of two coalition and two opposition MKs tasked with overseeing the behavior and public activities of lawmakers, announced that the decision was made “after receiving numerous complaints of goading, humiliating and offensive comments containing derogatory language.”

The ban applies to all committee and plenary debates but will not prevent Hazan from voting. At the end of each debate, he will be allowed to enter the chamber to place his vote before being escorted out again.

The committee also decided to dock his pay for one week, amounting to NIS 12,600 ($3,700).

The decision related to nine verbal clashes Hazan had with fellow lawmakers over just the last two months, as well as a December incident in which he boarded a bus carrying Palestinians on their way to visit relatives in the Nafha prison in southern Israel and berated them as “families of animals.”

Likud MK Oren Hazan boards a bus carrying family members of Gazans being held in Israeli military prison, December 25, 2017. (Screen capture: Israel Hayom)

In unusually harsh language, the committee said Hazan’s actions “disgraced the Knesset, taking it to an unprecedented low.”

“There is nearly not a day that goes by without a provocative incident with him at the center,” the decision noted.

Hazan, who entered the Knesset in the last election, has become known as the enfant terrible of Israel’s parliament.

Shortly after he went into politics, Channel 2 News reported that Hazan had hired prostitutes for his friends and taken crystal meth while he was managing a casino in Bulgaria in 2013. He sued journalist Amit Segal for libel but the court rejected the bulk of the lawsuit, saying the report amounted to “responsible, serious journalism and reflected the reality as it was.”

Since entering the Knesset, Hazan has been indicted for assault, publicly mocked a disabled colleague, and has been temporarily banned from the Knesset multiple times over various wrongdoings.

MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) and MK Michal Biran (Zionist Union) at the Ruderman Knesset Mission in Newton, outside Boston, on April 13, 2016 (Elan Kawesch/The Times of Israel)

In one of the new incidents debated by the committee, Hazan — responding to being called a “pimp” by Zionist Union MK Michal Biran —  suggested she work as a prostitute before quickly telling her that “nobody would even look at you.”

On Tuesday, the committee announced it would be imposing a week-long ban on Biran for the incident.

In an altercation last week, Hazan confronted MK Jamal Zahalka after the Joint (Arab) List brandished signs during US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” According to video footage shared with the committee, Hazan repeatedly screamed “terrorists” in Zahalka’s face.

The committee also received complaints about several other incidents in which Hazan was accused of telling Arab MKs to “get out of here” and “go back to Gaza,” both during committee and plenary debates and in the hallways of the parliament.

Last month, Hazan led a small group of protesters in blocking buses carrying Palestinians from Gaza on their way to visit their relatives in an Israeli prison, during which he referred to the inmates’ relatives as the “families of these animals” and said the prisoners deserved to be “underground.”

“The committee was shocked at the accumulated behavior and statements from MK Hazan as they were expressed in these incidents,” the decision read, saying that his actions were “thuggish, brash, degrading and intimidating… and often descended into racist and base comments.”

Acknowledging the particularly harsh punishment meted to Hazan, the committee said the decision came after previous disciplinary action against Hazan failed to produce a change in his behavior.

The Likud MK “still seems to have not internalized how problematic his behavior is,” it said.

Likud MK Oren Hazan reacts to a speech by Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi at the Knesset on December 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The only other time that the Ethics Committee has given such a harsh punishment was in 2014 when MK Hanin Zoabi was banned for six months for several provocative media statements, including saying that the killers of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in June of that year were not terrorists.

Responding to the announcement with uncharacteristic candor, Hazan described his ban as “a prize for the terrorists” and accused Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of “taking the path of terror” by not imposing harsher punishments on Arab lawmakers for their protest during Pence’s speech.

Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) also criticized the decision, calling it “unbalanced and unfair.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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