Meretz chair: Scandal-ridden lawmaker like Sheldon Adelson

Zahava Gal-on outlines ostensible similarities between Likud’s alleged meth-smoking, pimping Oren Hazan and Netanyahu’s Jewish-American supporter

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

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-on at the Knesset on December 3, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Meretz MK Zahava Gal-on at the Knesset on December 3, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Zahava Gal-on, the chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz Party, on Wednesday slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s close relationship with Jewish-American billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson by comparing him to a scandal-ridden Likud Knesset member accused of soliciting prostitutes and using hard drugs.

Gal-on’s remarks came as a number of lawmakers spoke out against Oren Hazan in the wake of a Monday television exposé tying him to the management of an illegal casino in Bulgaria, where he was said to have bought and smoked crystal meth and regularly hired prostitutes for gamblers visiting his establishment.

In a Facebook post, Gal-on wrote that Netanyahu’s “strong moral fiber” was preventing him from publicly addressing the allegations of misconduct that have intensified in recent days. The post initially appears to be about Hazan before she clarifies that she is referring to Adelson.

“[Netanyahu] became a slave to a person that everyone knew from the beginning was involved in the casino business, had allegations of prostitution against him, and who uses this money to buy a foothold in Israeli politics,” she writes.

“We’re talking about a man who systematically uses lawsuits to silence opponents, and dares to flaunt his love for Israel while accusing his critics of subversion or supporting anti-Israel boycotts,” she continues.

“No, he does not represent anyone, and nobody elected him. So I say to the prime minister once and for all: It’s time to take responsibility for your corrupt relationship with Sheldon Adelson,” Gal-on concludes wryly.

Adelson is a billionaire philanthropist and casino mogul who owns the Venetian and Palazzo casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. He is also a close confidant of Netanyahu and the Republican party’s top donor, and, in 2012, faced claims that he had facilitated prostitutes for the gamblers visiting his casinos. All prostitution-related charges against Adelson were eventually dropped.

US billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson (L) meets with Binyamin Netanyahu during a ceremony at the Congress Hall in Jerusalem, 12 August 2007. (photo credit: Flash90)
US billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson (L) meets with Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony at the Congress Hall in Jerusalem, August 2007. (Flash90)

Critics say that Adelson, who owns the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom free daily newspaper, wields outsized influence on Israeli and American politics. Israel Hayom, the most widely circulated daily in Israel, has put a strain on other Hebrew newspapers that take a less pro-Netanyahu stance and cannot afford to offer free editions.

Monday’s report about Hazan’s alleged lapses, aired by Channel 2 news, said that he had used crystal meth and solicited prostitutes for clients while managing a casino in Burgas, Bulgaria, based on the anonymous testimonies of acquaintances of Hazan and casino staff. The report also presented a number of documents, emails and social media posts and photographs supporting the claims and tying Hazan to the casino’s management.

Shortly after the segment aired, Hazan threatened to to take legal action against the network and its political reporter, Amit Segal, who presented the item.

Hazan has long maintained that he never managed the Bulgarian casino but rather a hotel “where there was also a casino,” and that it was managed by a person with whom he had no contact.

According to Channel 2, however, the casino in question is not inside a hotel, and the hotel Hazan claimed to have managed has had the same management for over 20 years — unrelated to Hazan.

On Tuesday, Hazan reportedly threatened to dig up embarrassing information about Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein, after the latter banned him from chairing Knesset sessions in the wake of the report.

Sources in Edelstein’s bureau said Hazan had threatened to find scandalous information about the Knesset speaker and publicize it.

According to a report on Channel 1 Tuesday, soon after the swearing-in of the Knesset, a Bulgarian official contacted Israeli officials and asked that Hazan not be involved in any relations between the two countries.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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