Controversial Likud backbencher Hazan endorses Le Pen

MK draws jeers for offering support for French presidential candidate despite Israeli policy of shunning her far-right FN party

Likud MK Oren Hazan reacts during a plenum session in the Knesset on January 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Oren Hazan reacts during a plenum session in the Knesset on January 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An outspoken and scandal-ridden MK from the ruling Likud party on Wednesday endorsed far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen ahead of the second round runoff election in France.

The endorsement from Oren Hazan came despite an official Israeli stance of avoiding contact with Le Pen’s National Front party, which is accused of anti-Semitism.

“Madame Le Pen, I offer my support at the debate this evening, as well as in the second round [of the election on Sunday], for the construction of France’s future,” Oren Hazan wrote in French in a post on his Twitter account.

Hazan, who has made headlines in Israel since becoming an MK in 2015 for his behavior both in and out of the Knesset — most notably for taking hard drugs while running a casino in Bulgaria before becoming a lawmaker — has also been vocal in his support for US President Donald Trump.

French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen (C), flanked by former French presidential election candidate for the right-wing Debout la France (DLF) party Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (L), gestures at the end of her meeting at the Parc des Expositions in Villepinte, on May 1, 2017. (AFP/Alain Jocard)
French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen (C), flanked by former French presidential election candidate for the right-wing Debout la France (DLF) party Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (L), gestures at the end of her meeting at the Parc des Expositions in Villepinte, on May 1, 2017. (AFP/Alain Jocard)

Following Hazan’s voicing of support for Le Pen, the French branch of Likud condemned his endorsement and asked French-speaking Israelis to sign up to the party in order to boot him from the Knesset list in the next party primaries.

“You’re fed up to be represented by people like Oren Hazan that are embarrassing us all?” the post in French said, while adding that “Likud, the Knesset and the people of Israel deserve better than that.”

Since Le Pen took over the leadership in 2011, she has worked to scrub away the anti-Semitic image inherited from the long reign of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a party co-founder convicted of racism and anti-Semitism.

She had her father expelled as a party member, though a court ruled he remain honorary president for life.

However, charges of anti-Semitism have continued to dog both her and the party, and in a speech last month President Reuven Rivlin harshly criticized Le Pen and accused her of Holocaust denial.

“Some two weeks ago a French presidential candidate denied France’s responsibility for the deportation of its Jewish citizens to the Nazi concentration and death camps,” Rivlin said at an event marking the close of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Earlier in April, Le Pen said that “if there are people responsible” for the deportation of French Jews, “it’s those who were in power at the time. It’s not France.”

Le Pen, who has advanced to the second round of the French presidential race, said on April 9 she did not “think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” the 1942 round-up of Jews at a Paris cycling track who were then sent to Nazi death camps.

After stepping down as party leader following the first round of elections last month, her temporary replacement Jean-François Jalkh resigned the post shortly after following an interview from 2000 surfaced in which he cast doubt on the Nazi gassing of Jews during the Holocaust.

Le Pen has also advocated a number of policies that have caused consternation among French Jews, such as bans on religious headgear and on French citizens holding dual nationality.

French presidential election candidates Marine Le Pen (L) and Emmanuel Macron pose prior to the start of a televised debate on May 3, 2017, as part of the second round election campaign. (AFP Photo/Pool/Eric Feferberg)
French presidential election candidates Marine Le Pen (L) and Emmanuel Macron pose prior to the start of a televised debate on May 3, 2017, as part of the second round election campaign. (AFP Photo/Pool/Eric Feferberg)

On Wednesday evening, Le Pen squared off with Emmanuel Macron in the final debate of the election contest ahead of Sunday’s runoff.

Opinion polls show Macron holding a hefty but narrowing lead of 59 percent to 41%, but previous debates during the rollercoaster campaign have quickly shifted public opinion.

Following Macron’s first round victory last month, Yesh Atid party leader offered his support for the centrist candidate and has billed him as a fellow champion of centrism amid rising populism through the West.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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