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Defense minister trades insults with scandal-ridden MK

Moshe Ya’alon declines to attend Likud party’s pre-holiday gathering after learning fellow MK Oren Hazan would be there

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks on Monday, July 13, 2015, at a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting. (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks on Monday, July 13, 2015, at a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting. (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon refused to attend a Likud party pre-holiday gathering on Tuesday after learning scandal-ridden lawmaker Oren Hazan was slated to attend and deliver a speech at the event.

Ya’alon told his associates that he declined to attend what he referred to disparagingly as a “masquerade” in order to protest the 33-year-old Knesset member facing fresh allegations of misconduct, who “degrades the Likud party and its values.”

“I have received numerous complaints from Likud members who cannot tolerate this situation. It’s time to say out loud what most people are thinking,” the defense minister said according to a Channel 2 report.

Ya’alon’s remarks came hours after police recommended Hazan face criminal charges for assaulting a public servant last year. A police investigation said there was “evidential basis” supporting allegations that Hazan assaulted the mayor of the West Bank town of Ariel in 2014 after a lien was placed on his bank account to collect an outstanding debt.

On Wednesday, Hazan fired back at Ya’alon during a plenum debate ahead of the Knesset vote on the 2015-16 budget, calling for his removal and saying the defense minister’s response to the recent upsurge in terror attacks targeting Israelis was ineffective.

“Every day Ya’alon concerns himself with maintaining his position and his own personal survival instead of dealing with the security situation, all while abandoning Israeli citizens,” Hazan charged.

Noting the dispute had reached a “personal level,” Hazan said that Ya’alon’s professional failures in preventing additional terror attacks were the reason the defense minister chose to “kill the messenger and go after me.”

“The emperor has on no clothes, and our blood is not cheap,” Hazan said before calling on Netanyahu to remove Ya’alon from his position.

In a Facebook post the day before, Hazan vehemently denied the allegations of misconduct, which he said were baseless, and claimed they were the result of political rivalry.

Likud MK Oren Hazan on May 13, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Likud MK Oren Hazan. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The case will be handed over to the State Attorney’s Office for review in the coming days, where officials will decide whether to pursue legal action.

Earlier this year, the freshman lawmaker was at the center of a number of scandals after television exposés accused Hazan of sexual assault, soliciting prostitutes and using crystal meth in a previous term of employment as the manager of a European casino.

In June, a Channel 2 report tied Hazan to the management of a casino in Bulgaria, where he purportedly bought and smoked crystal meth and regularly hired prostitutes for gamblers who were visiting his establishment. The report included the testimonies of Israeli tourists and former casino employees who said that Hazan regularly paid for hard drugs and escorts.

A week later, a number of women told the Israeli media that Hazan sexually harassed them when they worked for him at a Tel Aviv bar several years ago. Almost half a dozen women came forward to Channel 10 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.

Hazan denied the allegations made in both reports at the time.

In light of the mounting claims, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein banned Hazan from presiding over any Knesset meetings. However, he remained a member of parliament after the Knesset Ethics Committee said it did not have the jurisdiction to investigate the claims of misconduct made against him prior to his appointment to public office.

Josefin Dolsten and Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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