Likud MK Oren Hazan on Monday drew fire after calling handicapped Meretz lawmaker Ilan Gilon “half a human.”
Hazan later said he was not referring to Gilon’s disability.
The comment came during a stormy Knesset debate over legislation that would see government funding for the arts as contingent on “loyalty.”
Gilon had been criticizing Culture Minister Miri Regev, also of the Likud party, from the podium when Hazan came to her defense.
Gilon and Hazan then exchanged words before the Likud backbencher said “If you weren’t half a human, I would respond to you.”
Gilon retorted by branding Hazan “the Golem of Prague.”
The Likud MK, who has been punished for mocking a disabled lawmaker in the past, insisted his insult was not a jab at the left-wing lawmaker’s condition.
“My comments referred to his manners. If my statements were interpreted otherwise, accept my apology,” said Hazan.
Gilon, who had polio as a child, has difficulty walking unaided and often uses a wheelchair.
Hazan’s comment drew backlash from opposition MKs, who described the lawmaker’s words as “revolting” and “repulsive.” “If he isn’t thrown out of the Likud in the coming hour — then this is the true face of the party. This is the way they want to lead Israel. Revolting,” wrote Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir on Twitter.
“Let me remind you that this repulsive MK also mocked my friend Karin Elharar for her disability. How disgusting can you be?” added Zionist Union MK Mickey Rosenthal.
Since his election to the Knesset two years ago, Hazan has publicly mocked a disabled colleague and has been temporarily banned from the Knesset twice over various wrongdoings. In January, 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.
In November 2015, during a late-night vote, Hazan shouted at wheelchair-bound Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar, “Need Issawi to help you?” Elharar suffers from muscular dystrophy.
Hazan had accused her of illegal double-voting after she asked Meretz MK Issawi Frej to help her cast her vote in the plenum.
Recently, he told a female lawmaker in a Knesset committee meeting that she was too ugly to be a prostitute.
Hazan’s father Yehiel Hazan lost his Knesset seat after he was caught casting a double-vote in the plenum, and then attempting to remove a voting computer from a Knesset storage room to hide evidence of the act.
The Knesset on Monday night will vote on the first reading of a controversial bill that would allow the culture minister to withhold funding for cultural organizations “that are working against the principles of the state.”
The so-called Culture Loyalty Law would allow the government to pull funding from organizations or events that present any of five topics: denial that the State of Israel is a Jewish, democratic country; incitement of racism, violence, or terror; support for the armed struggle or acts of terror against Israel by an enemy state or a terror group; marking Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning; or any act of destruction or physical degradation of the flag or any state symbol.