Don't Israeli Political Parties Vet Their Members?

With former co-workers accusing MK Yinon Magal of sexual harassment, perhaps the Israeli obsession with bringing in superstars from the media into the Knesset should run its course.

A screenshot of Naftali Bennett's video welcoming Yinon Magal to Habayit Hayehudi.
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Two media stars with names that rhyme, supposedly vote magnets, adorned the Knesset rosters of Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi in the last election: Sharon Gal and Yinon Magal. The first was anointed by Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, despite the disturbing and odiferous trail he left behind at his previous workplace, Channel 10. The second was parachuted to his reserved slot by Habayit Hayehudi Chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett to dilute the skullcaps and bring down the average age — a cool, moderate, handsome secular guy (and, as will become clear below, a fan of soft drugs).

Gal did us all a favor and left his position a moment before the current Knesset convened, under unclear circumstances, and a claim of “boredom.” With Tuesday's Magal affair, the question is whether our leaders' obsession with bringing in superstars from the world of journalism before elections has run its course. Perhaps we should go back to making do with solid choices for reserved places on the lists with the likes of Likud veteran Benny Begin, for example.

The blame is not on those who win the prize, but those who award it. In the Gal affair, a heavy pall was cast on Lieberman and his good judgement. Bennett did not know, but he should have more closely scrutinized the facets of the jewel at his side throughout the election campaign. In the beginning of the week, Army Radio revealed a remark of Bennett's to party activists that Netanyahu had backtracked on his statement that he would take unilateral steps after the education minister put “a bullet between his eyes.” It’s not hard to imagine Netanyahu smirking Tuesday to his friends, “So who got the bullet between the eyes now? A bullet? A cruise missile!”

Magal did not deny the accusations of two former co-workers from Walla who claimed he had sexually harassed them. After the testimony of the first woman surfaced on Facebook, he quickly apologized and expressed remorse. He hoped that his response would lower the flames, but another woman openly and courageously accused him, and the fire went out of control. In other times, Magal’s apology might have been enough to end the story. In our times, there is zero tolerance for such conduct. The legitimate question as to why this came out now of all moments, almost a year after the alleged incidents, will not help Magal, who, as noted, did not deny the accusations.

Magal repeatedly boasted of his private hobby, smoking joints. Again and again he butted heads with the “leftist” media, which had been his professional home for most of his adult life. Perhaps he should have taken into account that the demons from his recent past could pop out of the shadows one day. And pop out they did. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will apparently order an investigation and Magal, a senior member of Habayit Hayehudi and chairman of its Knesset faction, will from now on walk the Knesset halls under a cloud, unless he decides to quit.

And as if Magal did not have enough complications — public, political and certainly familial — his name has become associated with that of his Likud colleague, MK Oren Hazan. Everything possible has already been written and said about that punk who puts the Knesset to shame. A neighborhood bully who breaks records for rudeness and lack of self-awareness, Hazan mocked the severe disability of MK Karine Elharar (Yesh Atid) on Monday night. In the aftermath, he was rewarded with two consecutive interviews on Channel 10 News.

Netanyahu (whom Hazan has called “my good friend”) phoned him, scolded him for what he said, and released a statement to that effect. That slap on the wrist will apparently be the end of it. MK Yoav Kish received a worse punishment from Likud Faction Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi after Kish’s conscience prevented him from voting for the draft bill amendment that he himself had initiated before his election. Hanegbi barred Kish membership on Knesset committees for an unlimited period. Meanwhile, Hazan will continue to blather away in the most important committees, including finance and foreign affairs and defense, because they are afraid to touch him. He might become terribly insulted.