The scandal-plagued Likud MK Oren Hazan was removed Tuesday from the Knesset’s House and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees at the request of members of his own party, after he skipped a plenum session on Monday night, resulting in a loss for the coalition in a vote on a bill submitted by Likud MK Anat Berko.
The newcomer Likud MK Amir Ohana, who was sworn into the Knesset in late December 2015, will replace Hazan on the committees.
“For a while, MK Oren Hazan has been absent on purpose from many votes at the Knesset plenum,” Tzachi Hanegbi, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, wrote in statement explaining Hazan’s suspension. “This displays clear disregard for the members of the faction, who every Monday and Wednesday face the opposition, often late into the night.
“The last straw came last night, when his unjustifiable absence… while ignoring attempts by faction members to verify his arrival, cost a bill to establish the position of military courts, an important proposal that our friend Anat Berko, with the backing of the government, worked on diligently.”
After his suspension, Hazan hit back at the Likud members who pushed for his removal from the committees, specifically criticizing Hanegbi, who he said was frustrated at not being a cabinet minister.
“In light of the fact that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is not functioning, discussions do not take place, and the relevant parties do not appear, and in practice [the committee] has no influence, I can only say thank you to Hanegbi who made time for me to for temporary committees that are important and actually function such as the Finance Committee and the State Control Committee, where I could continue and have an influence on the Israeli public’s behalf,” Hazan said.
“It’s sad that coalition chairman Hanegbi is covering his failures, which result from frustration over the fact that Netanyahu didn’t appoint him a minister, so he scapegoats me. Out of 59 Knesset sessions I attended 55, and when I missed the sessions, I was taking care of my health.”
Hazan was at the center of a number of scandals over recent months after television exposés accused him of sexual assault, soliciting prostitutes and using crystal meth when he managed a casino in Burgas, Bulgaria, before being elected to the Knesset.
An investigative report by Channel 2 last year quoted hotel guests, Hazan’s driver and a local madam who all recalled Hazan bringing the women to the Burgas casino. Other guests recalled doing crystal meth on the street with Hazan.
Hazan denied the allegations and subsequently sued reporter Amit Segal for libel, but the report prompted Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to block Hazan, a deputy speaker, from presiding over any Knesset meetings “until further notice.”
The freshman lawmaker’s lack of diplomacy and uncouth behavior have resulted in public scrutiny over various reports of wrongdoing, including when he was roundly criticized for mocking a disabled fellow MK during a plenum session in December.
Days later, a state comptroller report on party spending during primary campaigns said Hazan failed to report his expenditures and accused him of lying in an affidavit declaring his expenses, a crime that can carry up to a three-year custodial sentence.
Following a series of complaints leveled against him, Hazan was suspended for a month from parliamentary and committee debates.