Likud MK Oren Hazan can’t boast of having the finest pedigree in Israeli politics. He’s the son of an ex-lawmaker sentenced to community service for voting once too often – and then being caught on Knesset security cameras trying to tamper with the evidence.
And Hazan fils has flaws of his own. He ran a casino in Bulgaria, not something you’ll find on your average political CV. In that capacity, people say, he procured prostitutes and hard drugs for customers. He’s a loudmouth with a taste for eighth-grade antics, and as a lawmaker in the 20th Knesset, he has instigated ugly and very public spats with fellow MKs over utter nonsense.
He has even berated and insulted the leader of his own party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and loudly at that.
It's no secret that Netanyahu regrets having awarded him the 30th seat on the party's last election list – possibly to the point where he wishes the Likud won only 29. But Hazan doesn’t mind. He’s of the school that says call me what you want, just spell my name right (and make sure it appears everywhere and often). It’s a school that sees little, if any, difference between renown and notoriety – just get my name out there.
OREN RECENTLY gave me a call.
We reminisced about my March 2016 column detailing an enthusiastic message left on his answering machine by then-US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who said such bons mots as “I like your style” and “we have a lot in common.” Hazan reminded me how he had thanked me profusely for the PR and how I had then urged him to find some way to capitalize on it, perhaps by sneaking in for a selfie with Trump should the candidate win and come for a visit.
When he called, the talk of the town was the dustup with Jordan over the Israeli Embassy security man who had shot and killed two people after being attacked with a screwdriver. The incident was sending an already strained diplomatic relationship even deeper down the tubes, with Amman complaining about the hero’s welcome Netanyahu gave the guard upon his return.
Hazan had taken to Twitter almost immediately.
“It looks,” he tweeted, “like our friends to the east of the Jordan, those we give water to and whose backsides we protect day and night, need a little reeducation.”
In response, Jordanian lawmaker Yahya Mohammad Alsaud – who might be called the Hashemite Kingdom’s answer to Hazan – responded by challenging his Israeli counterpart to show up the next morning at the Allenby Bridge, where he would promptly “beat him up.”
That’s why Oren called me. “How should I handle this?” he inquired.
I pondered the matter for a moment and said: “Tell him you’ll show. To talk. But be tough. Alsaud wants mano a mano? Channel your Don Corleone.”
Quickly, Hazan tweeted: “I accept the Jordanian member of parliament’s invitation to meet on the bridge. Tomorrow at 10 in the morning I’ll get to the Allenby Bridge for a talk as equals. I have an offer he won’t be able to refuse….”
The MK was on his way to the showdown when he got a call from a Netanyahu aide conveying a message from the prime minister: Don’t do it. Alsaud had already arrived and was calling Hazan a “pig.” He was frothing at the mouth, much like he was when he smacked a fellow Jordanian lawmaker on the floor of parliament a few years ago. (This, it should be noted, is something Hazan has yet to do.) For once, the Likud MK listened to his boss. So he did an aboutface a few kilometers from the bridge and again took to Twitter.
“Yes, maybe I’m disappointed that the expected meeting… didn’t take place, but hey, at least I got a mental boost from Oren Smadja, who called to give me some pointers….”
Smadja, in case you don’t know, won Olympic bronze for Israel in judo. It was eighth grader-ish of Hazan, but hey, it definitely got his name out there.
THEN CAME a call from Yair Netanyahu.
Yair’s political pedigree is on somewhat firmer ground. Still, it seems there was an uproar because a neighbor saw him walking the family dog and failing to pick up the droppings. When the neighbor pointed this out as he departed the scene, he flipped her the bird.
Netanyahu fils has been under scrutiny of late, being criticized for publicly weighing in on matters of state and, unemployed at age 26, for freeloading, on the taxpayer’s shekel, by rooming with his folks at the official residence. As a collegian three and a half years ago, he also aroused a bit of ire when it was revealed that he was dating a Norwegian shiksa – at which point I wrote a column in his defense.
Clearly, he remembered this.
“I hear you’ve been helping Hazan,” he said when he called.
“How can I get back at these pukes?” I thought for a moment, recalling the doggie do and Yair’s middle-digit response.
“Take to Facebook. Hit hard. And be creative with emojis.”
I could literally hear Yair nodding at the other end. Soon enough, he lashed out on the popular social media site (where his name, for some obscure reason, is Yair Hun).
He threw out some choice tidbits, claiming, among other things, that the liberal group most critical of him was being funded with "foreign money," a big no-no these days. He also wondered why it was picking on him while ignoring the misadventures of other prime ministerial sons, although some of those misadventures had been committed long ago. He closed his post with emojis: a pile of dog poo and a hand flipping the bird.
But hey, at least his (first) name was out there.
I’ll do anything to help young, enthusiastic Israeli patriots get their names out there. Ari Harow, are you listening?