How Lieberman Suddenly Made Maverick MK Oren Hazan Netanyahu's Problem

What would have been just another time Hazan was banned from the Knesset for his extravagant behavior might turn into a political headache for the premier after defection from Lieberman made his coalition fragile

Likud MK Oren Hazan speaks at a party meeting in Tel Aviv, March 2018
Moti Milrod

The resignation of Defense Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman from the cabinet and the ruling coalition Wednesday could have a strange side effect on governance in the Knesset. It could turn Likud MK Oren Hazan, a political celebrity known more for his bad behavior than for his legislative impact, into an outright problem for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Monday afternoon, three Likud political operatives sat in a Knesset dining room, not far from where Hazan was sitting, talking among themselves. They were gossiping about the damage Hazan is doing to Likud by not upholding behavioral norms. “You pushed him into the Knesset,” one accused the other. “You’re the reason he got in,” the second person retorted.

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Nearby, Hazan was talking with a group of young female visitors. It’s a common sight — Hazan is one of the more famous Knesset members, and on days when he’s in the building, visitors almost always stop him for selfies or signatures.

Hazan's selfie with Trump

There won’t be many such days in the foreseeable future. On Tuesday, Hazan was banned from the Knesset plenum for six weeks — just a month ago after returning from a six-month ban.

Hazan was barred this time for insulting a Defense Ministry official during a Knesset committee session in October.

“You think that because you’re a brigadier general in the reserves, you’re God. The sun doesn’t shine out of your behind,” Oren told Hezi Meshita, a deputy director general in the Defense Ministry, in a meeting of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

“I wish you’ll suffer like those people, and then you’ll feel it. You and your children,” Hazan added.

To MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), who conducted the discussion, he said, “You’re a coward. Some public representative. Kulanu won’t get enough votes to get into the next Knesset, you’ll wave Hi to the Knesset on your TV screen. Anonymous MK.”

Now it seems Hazan may turn into a real problem. Netanyahu was left with a coalition of just 61 of the Knesset’s 120 members. During the ban, Hazan may vote, but he cannot participate in any other way.

It’s questionable, however, whether Hazan, who doesn’t feel particularly obligated to Likud, will bother to do that.

As Netanyahu debates whether to continue with his current coalition without Yisrael Beiteinu, he’ll need to take into account that he’ll be relying on one particularly disgruntled MK.