Israeli Lawmaker in Trouble Again After Starring in Health-makeover Reality TV Show

Knesset Ethics Committee to discuss appearance of Likud lawmaker Oren Hazan in Channel 10 program

MK Oren Hazan (Likud) during a debate on the new public broadcasting corporation, April 25, 2017.
Lior Mizrahi

The Knesset ethics will discuss controversial MK Oren Hazan's appearance on a health-makeover reality TV show this week.

Channel 10’s “Restart” documents the life of Hazan, a member of the ruling Likud party, and other participants over six months. During this time, the participants try to lose weight, stop smoking and make other lifestyle improvements.

The Knesset Ethics Committee will discuss his appearance next week. According to Channel 10, Hazan was not paid for appearing on “Restart.”

In 2012, the ethics committee ruled that “it is forbidden for lawmakers to contract with a media entity to appear regularly and continuously on radio or television programs, or with other media entities – like writing a regular column for the print press or for commercial news websites – since this is liable to forge a significant feeling of commitment on the part of the MK to media entities whose issues are debated frequently by the Knesset and its committees, and could even constitute a forbidden benefit.”

The publicity Hazan receives thanks to appearing on the Channel 10 show is worth tens of thousands of shekels. Channel 10 refused to comment.

This is not Hazan’s first brush with the Knesset authorities. Just last week the ethics panel ruled that his appearance on another show, “Hanoch Daum Rethinks his Direction,” was improper.

Hazan argued that he thought MKs were only forbidden from appearing on reality programs, and that “Hanoch Daum...” wasn’t that type of show (Daum is a comedian). The panel members noted that the regulations did not distinguish between reality shows and other types of programs, but opted to take no action against Hazan.

The Likud lawmaker has been sanctioned for previous actions, though. In December 2015, the ethics committee suspended him from the Knesset for a month (except during votes) in response to a series of complaints filed against him for mocking MK Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid), who has muscular dystrophy. The same day as his Knesset suspension, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira issued a report saying Hazan had made a false declaration of his expenses during the Likud primary campaign.

The clause banning MKs from appearing on TV shows (other than as guests on current events or news shows) was added to the Knesset Ethics Code in March 2012 after then-MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima) wanted to be a contestant on the Israeli version of “Dancing With the Stars.”

In a legal opinion, Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon wrote that the exposure a lawmaker would receive from appearing regularly on a television show could be interpreted as an improper benefit, and influence his or her judgment during Knesset debates on media issues.

It should be noted that Hazan deals publicly with numerous issues relating to the media. He made frequent comments about the recently launched public broadcasting corporation, Kan – whose establishment he opposed. He is also in an ongoing spat with Channel 2 TV, which he sued in response to a damning report about him by political reporter Amit Segal.

“The junta at Channel 2 has no integrity,” he tweeted on Tuesday, with regard to a report it aired on bachelor parties in Bucharest. He called the story “a marketing piece that promotes prostitution,” and called on the channel’s CEO to resign.

MK and former journalist Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union) called for the Knesset Ethics Committee to be given more teeth. “There should be harsher sanctions in cases of repeated violations of the code of ethics,” he said, adding that he had tried to advance a new code of ethics to combat the “cheapening” of the Knesset. “The ethics committee must impose serious sanctions on Hazan and restore some of the parliament’s lost honor,” he added.

Hazan responded: “As I understand it, because we’re talking about a documentary program being broadcast for a limited time and not regularly, the program is no different from any other ‘magazine’ program that lawmakers can take part in. Moreover, I updated the relevant Knesset officials in advance, including the legal adviser. I must also note that this program was filmed before the ethics committee’s clarifications on MKs appearing in reality shows were issued.”