MK Oren Hazan was barred from chairing the Knesset plenum Tuesday after a Channel 2 report claimed he lied about running a casino in Bulgaria and had used hard drugs and solicited escorts before entering politics.
Hazan, who serves as a deputy Knesset speaker, was summoned by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in wake of Monday night's report and, contrary to Hazan's claims, was barred until further notice from presiding over the Knesset as speaker.
The two met behind closed doors and at the end of the meeting Hazan announced he would not be chairing the Knesset's plenary session – the first in his capacity as deputy speaker. Hazan tweeted that he had spoken with Edelstein and informed him he was leaving the Knesset early to meet with his lawyers and thus could not join the session.
However, in a statement to the press, Edelstein contradicted the claim, saying he had taken Hazan off the roster of rotating speakers. The decision is in effect until further notice. Only a majority of 90 MKs can depose a sitting deputy speaker.
Later on Tuesday, opposition leader Isaac Herzog approved a voter offsetting agreement with Likud for Hazan. Under this agreement, Zionist Union would offset Hazan's absence from Knesset votes with one of their lawmakers. The aim of this is to ensure Edelstein can deal with the disgraced MK, without fear of him using his prime position as the 61st lawmaker in a narrow-majority coalition as leverage. Without the off-setting deal, Netanyahu's government would effectively lose its majority.
Oren Hazan at a party from the time before he was a politician. From Hazan's Facebook
In one of the documents published by Channel 2, Hazan signs off as the director-general of the Gold casino, which he has in the past denied owning. An employee in the casino even told the television channel that there were business ties between Hazan's casino and the Red Rose strip club.
According to the former employee, who said he worked as a driver, Hazan ordered and paid for escorts for gamblers at the casino. The manager of the Red Rose strip club even told Channel 2 that Hazan was "the big boss" and seemed surprised when told Hazan was now in politics.
An Israeli tourist who claims to know Hazan claimed to have witnessed the Likud MK taking drugs, including crystal meth, which was reportedly bought from a dealer on the street.
Not a single member of the Likud has commented on the report, others who were willing to comment refused to be identified. "Hazan vehemently denies the allegations. Until the facts are clearer, I don’t think it's appropriate I'll publically come out against him," one such Likud official said.
Speaking to Army Radio, Hazan reiterated his unequivocal denial of all the claims made in the report: "There were no drugs and there was no pimping. We are not nave, Burgas is a retreat, and there are women walking around in the streets and in the casino, but there is no connection between them and me. It is said that yellow journalism is masquerading as investigative reporting," he said.