Lawmakers in the coalition and opposition criticized MK Oren Hazan (Likud) for taunting wheelchair-bound MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) for the second time in a week, overnight Monday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident “grave,” and said: “I cannot tolerate racism, I cannot tolerate discrimination and I cannot tolerate cruelty... An MK in my faction said something inappropriate to MK Karin Elharar, something that should not have been said, and I condemn it.
“I called [Hazan] and reprimanded him and told him such things cannot be said,” he added, in his speech at a ceremony honoring Ethiopian aliya activists.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in an interview with the Knesset Channel: “I didn’t imagine that someone could say such a thing about someone else, not even in the heat of a debate, and certainly not between elected officials. An intolerable redline was crossed.”
Earlier this year, Edelstein refused to give Hazan shifts as deputy speaker of the Knesset after Channel 2 reported that he previously managed a casino in Burgas, Bulgaria and would procure prostitutes and crystal meth for Israeli patrons. Hazan is suing the reporter for libel.
Edelstein said Tuesday he has done all he legally can as speaker, and called on the coalition to “take practical steps” against Hazan.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said “Hazan’s behavior sullies the Knesset, but the real shame is that Netanyahu, as usual, makes zero effort to remove the stain.”
Zionist Union MKs decided not to sign any bills initiated by Hazan.
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.
Numerous MKs, including Netanyahu, approached 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?” Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid approached Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to complain about the episode, and their conversation was filmed by the Knesset Channel’s cameras.
“There is an MK that is constantly mocking another MK’s handicap. Throw him out,” Lapid demanded.
Edelstein responded that he should file a complaint to the Ethics Committee.
“You’re the speaker! Who else should I ask?” Lapid added.
Hazan then began baiting Lapid, calling him the Hebrew word for “arrogant,” which is similar to the name Yair. “Yahir, Yahir, do you have a problem with me?” Hazan yelled.
Hazan later said his comments were aimed at Frej and not Elharar, claiming that the Meretz MK double-voted illegally.”
Frej wrote a letter to Edelstein, asking that he suspend Hazan from the plenum, which is not within the Knesset speaker’s power to do.
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), co-chairman of the Knesset Caucus for People with Disabilities, filed a complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee, which can suspend Hazan from the plenum and committees.
Lawmakers in the coalition and the opposition took to social media to express their displeasure with Hazan.
“This crosses every line,” MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union) tweeted. “I’m ashamed.”
MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) tweeted that she, MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu) and MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) shouted at Hazan to stop.
Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which focuses on the inclusion of people with disabilities, called Hazan’s behavior “unacceptable” and invited him to “a series of educational meetings to help him understand how to treat people with disabilities.”
“Our children should learn from our elected officials, and making fun of someone’s disability sets the wrong kind of example for any society,” Ruderman said.