Banned for insulting his peers, Likud MK calls Knesset speaker ‘Stalin’

Oren Hazan uses his last address to plenum before 6-month expulsion to attack Yuli Edelstein, a former prisoner of Zion

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Likud MK Oren Hazan, center, in Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, January 31, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Likud MK Oren Hazan, center, in Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, January 31, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The controversial Likud MK Oran Hazan stood before the Knesset plenum on Wednesday and called Speaker Yuli Edelstein “Stalin,” during his last address to parliament before beginning a six-month suspension, ordered by the Knesset Ethics Committee due to his previous insults to MKs.

Hazan’s snipe at Edelstein, a Knesset veteran and former prisoner of Zion in the Soviet Union, caused uproar, with some lawmakers shouting their condemnations while others called on their peers to walk out in a show of contempt.

The incident came during a session that was also scheduled to vote on a student rights bill sponsored by Hazan.

Taking to the podium, Hazan, a freshman lawmaker, slipped the name into his address under the guise of a mistake.

“I turned to Stalin — sorry, Knesset chair Edelstein — and asked him to apologize to the prime minister for those embarrassing recordings,” he said, referring to audio footage that surfaced last week of the speaker criticizing Netanyahu and his leadership of the Likud party.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, on January 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Several lawmakers leaped from their seats following Hazan’s words and immediately condemned him. Zionist Union MK Revital Swid, who was chairing the session, demanded that Hazan apologize, but he refused. Opposition Zionist Union MK Hilik Bar shouted at Hazan that he was “a disgrace to the Knesset” and was himself removed from the plenum after refusing to stop berating Hazan.

Likud MK David Amsalem demanded that Hazan apologize to Edelstein, who was not in the hall at the time.

Hazan eventually left the hall and later continued to attack Edelstein in an apology statement, while explaining that he had merely made a “Freudian slip.”

“Unlike Yuli, I know how to apologize,” Hazan said. “Yuli said the prime minister is crazy, unsuitable… and was unwilling to apologize. By contrast, I fully apologize for my Freudian slip.”

The outburst came hours after the Knesset Ethics Committee handed Hazan the maximum possible punishment — unprecedented in all the years of the Knesset — for a series of incidents in which he insulted 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).

On Sunday, the Kan public broadcaster aired a recording of a private meeting in which Edelstein could be heard saying, “We will find ourselves in the opposition if things continue like this.”

“Likud is in a very serious problem,” he said, adding that some of Netanyahu’s behavior was “a bit problematic.”

The report did not indicate when the recordings were made or who attended the meeting with Edelstein. His was a rare attack on Netanyahu from among the ranks of senior Likud members, who have by and large defended the prime minister vociferously amid the criminal investigations against him and his increasingly acerbic attacks on the media.

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

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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