MK Oren Hazan.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
MK Oren Hazan insisted he did not intend to taunt wheelchair-bound MK Karin Elharar, but apologized in the plenum Wednesday for hurting her feelings.
“There has been a lot of noise in the last 48 hours over the topic that I asked to investigate, the double voting on the budget, and somehow it moved into other areas,” Hazan (Likud) said. “I did not and I do not have any complaint about MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid).
“If she was hurt by me in any way, I apologize,” he stated.
Hazan complained about the “personal shaming” directed at him and called on people “to lower the flames a bit.”
Last Thursday, during budget votes, Hazan accused MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) of double- voting, a crime for which Hazan’s father, former MK Yehiel Hazan, had been convicted.
Frej had assisted Elharar in voting, as she had trouble doing it herself due to her muscular dystrophy, though she is usually capable.
Hazan shouted to Edelstein that what they did is illegal, and Elharar burst out in tears, leading numerous MKs, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to approach her to comfort her.
During the vote to amend the haredi conscription law on Monday night, Hazan made reference to the incident, shouting across the plenum: “Do you need Esawi to help you?” Hazan’s comment sparked an immediate outrage, with Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid calling on Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to throw out Hazan for “constantly mocking another MK’s handicap.” Edelstein could not remove Hazan, however, because he does not have the authority to do so while MKs are voting, as they were at the time.
Netanyahu rebuked Hazan privately and publicly. Edelstein, who refuses to give Hazan shifts as deputy speaker due to allegations of pimping and drug use in his former job as a casino manager in Bulgaria, called on the coalition to take further steps against the MK.
On Thursday, Lapid criticized Likud members for not doing more to stop Hazan’s behavior.
“The country has lost its moral spine, and the government lost its shame,” he said in a speech to the Sderot Conference for Society at Sapir College. “This is a country in which an MK can mock an MK in a wheelchair for being handicapped, and the other 29 members of his party – people in the Likud, the party of Menachem Begin – look at him and no one says a word.”
In an interview with Israel Radio, Edelstein pointed out that when the reports about Hazan’s alleged activities in Bulgaria came out, Lapid came out against opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) for agreeing to offset Hazan while the coalition figured out how to deal with him.
“Is [Lapid] willing to sacrifice one of the votes from his faction because of the situation?” Edelstein asked.