MK Oren Hazan (Likud) will not serve as deputy Knesset speaker until further notice, following a report that he managed a casino in Burgas, Bulgaria, pimping prostitutes and providing crystal meth to Israeli tourists.
Hazan unequivocally denied the allegations and threatened on Tuesday to sue Channel 2 and its political reporter Amit Segal for reporting so.
On Monday night, Channel 2 News broadcast an investigative report, following up on a report from earlier this year that Hazan, a deputy Knesset speaker, managed the Sunny Beach Casino in the Bulgarian resort town, and didn’t work in a hotel that happened to have a casino, as the MK claimed.
Israeli tourists who said they visited the casino told Segal and others that they did crystal meth with Hazan while there, and the now-MK hired prostitutes for them from a nearby strip club, called “Red Roses.”
The report featured a recording of a phone call with a man saying he was Hazan’s driver, who said he would drive to Red Roses and ask for “good looking girls with big tits” to bring back to the casino.
There was also video of a woman who Segal reported is the “madam” of Red Roses who called Hazan “Oren the Big Boss,” corroborated the stories of him bringing women to the casino, and giggled when she was told that the “big boss” is now in politics.
On Monday morning, Hazan called the report “detestable, baseless lies,” and had his attorney send a pre-lawsuit warning letter to Channel 2 and Segal.
“I say this unequivocally: There were no drugs. There was no pimping women,” he said.
Hazan blamed the media, “which has yet to accept the Likud and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s victory” saying that it is “amazing to what level reporters, anchors, editors and producers are willing to stoop.”
“I came to the Knesset to do important things for the People of Israel and the Land of Israel. I won’t let anyone sway me from my way,” he added.
In an interview with Army Radio, Hazan said he does not know any of the people or recognize the places shown in the Channel 2 Report – though they look similar to pictures on his Facebook account – and added that he would be willing to undergo a polygraph test.
As for photographs of him surrounded by scantily-clad women, Hazan said Channel 2 got them from his Facebook page, and if he was doing something illegal, he wouldn’t have put the pictures online.
MKs across the political spectrum called for Hazan to resign from his position as deputy Knesset speaker.
A senior Likud source called for Hazan to step down from the high-profile position, as well as his membership in legislative committees, including the prestigious Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, until his innocence is proven.
The Likud source called the story an embarrassment and said he had told Hazan, who gained a reputation as the class clown of the Knesset, long ago that he should lower his profile, but he didn’t.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) took to twitter to criticize Netanyahu for staying silent following the allegations against an MK from his party, adding “a different MK should run the plenum meeting today, for the dignity of the Knesset and our citizens.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein met with Hazan on Tuesday, and soon after Hazan said that he would leave the Knesset early to see his lawyers, but not that he would resign as deputy Knesset speaker.
Edelstein instructed the Knesset Secretariat not to assign Hazan any shifts as deputy speaker until further notice.
A Kneset Speaker does not have the authority to fire a deputy from the position, but 61 MKs can vote to do so.
MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) – who Hazan asked last week, in Arabic, that he show his ID, as an IDF soldier would ask a Palestinian at a checkpoint – called for Hazan’s immunity to be removed, so he can be put on trial.
An MK can only be made to leave the Knesset if he is convicted of a crime. However, the Knesset Ethics Committee, which has not been reinstated since the election, can suspend him from all activities except voting.
Ruth Resnick, chairwoman of NGO No 2 Violence Against Women, demanded Hazan’s immediate suspension until an investigation of the pimping allegations is completed, and if Hazan is guilty, he should be removed from the Knesset.
Also Tuesday, Hazan became a member of the newly reinstated Knesset Committee for the War on Drugs.