Settler leaders join condemnation of booted Likud MK
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Settler leaders join condemnation of booted Likud MK

16 West Bank council chiefs sign a letter titled 'Oren Hazan, Enough!' after suspended legislator calls Knesset speaker 'Stalin'

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Likud MK Oren Hazan in Jerusalem on September 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Oren Hazan in Jerusalem on September 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Settler leaders on Friday joined the growing chorus of condemnation against a scandal-ridden Likud lawmaker who called Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein “Stalin” during his final address to parliament this week before beginning a six-month suspension.

Sixteen local and regional council leaders in the West Bank signed a letter titled “Oren Hazan, Enough!” that was published in various news outlets, in addition to being widely circulated on social media.

“We were shocked by the recent behavior of MK Oren Hazan and the ‘Stalin’ nickname that was attached to the former prisoner of Zion Yuli Edelstein,” the petition read.

“There are lines in political discourse that must not be crossed, and the comparison of a prisoner of Zion to the mass murderer who persecuted Jews because of their Jewishness is outrageous and requires condemnation and apology.”

The settler leaders wrote that they stood by Edelstein in the face of Hazan’s attacks, and called on Likud MKs to denounce the freshman lawmaker.

Likud MK Oren Hazan (C) announces on November 5, 2017 that he will be joining a hunger strike led by settler leaders demanding the prime minister transfer funds for security improvements in the West Bank. (Screen capture/Samaria Regional Council)

Among the petition’s signatories was the chairman of the Yesha umbrella council of settlements, Hananel Dorani.

Notably missing was the endorsement of Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, who is seen as a major settler leader with close ties to a majority of Likud MKs, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Dagan did not respond to The Times of Israel’s request for comment on the matter, but has in the past been considered an ally of Hazan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Yesha Council leaders at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Hazan slipped the name into his address as if by 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.

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 MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union ) 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.”

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.

Separately on Friday, Likud Youth chairman David Shain penned an op-ed in the national religious Arutz Sheva news site calling for Hazan’s removal from the Knesset entirely.

Shain wrote that the 36-year-old lawmaker, who filled one of the slots on the Likud’s list reserved for young candidates, is “one of the reasons for the Likud’s delegitimization in the media.”

“Let’s put everything on the table for a moment: what are his achievements in the Knesset? Backgammon champion of Israel’s Knesset? Come on!” Shain wrote.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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