Leaders with character

There is no existing mechanism to remove an MK from office for noncriminal breaches of trust and improper behavior.

MK Oren Hazan
The specifics of what MK Oren Hazan did or did not do in Bulgaria are so tantalizing that they have become the story, with the details becoming the focus of conversations in the halls of the Knesset and, no doubt, in cafes, bars and living rooms throughout Israel. However, I believe we have lost focus regarding the part of his story that we know to be 100 percent true, the element which affects our lives as citizens of Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s challenge in cobbling together this 34th government didn’t end once he found ministries to satisfy all ministerial candidates. He then had to placate Knesset members from the Likud who demanded positions of power for themselves.
This brings us to MK Hazan, No. 30 on the Likud list, who managed to squeeze the following positions from the prime minister: a) Deputy speaker of the Knesset, a position that includes chairing plenary sessions, sitting in the Knesset presidium which, among other responsibilities, decides to accept or decline points of order from MKs, greets foreign dignitaries and attends ceremonies on behalf of the Knesset.
b) Membership in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, one of the Knesset’s two most important committees. This position entails attendance at endless hours of meetings and requires a fair amount of homework in order to be an effective member of the committee.
c) Membership in the Finance Committee, the second of the two most important Knesset committees.
Having sat in this committee during the 19th Knesset, I can attest that the amount of material that committee members must read to be active and responsible participants is massive.
Studying those documents, especially during budget hearings and votes, took huge amounts of time and energy.
It is impossible for any one person – regardless of his talents and abilities – to properly serve in all of these roles. This representative of the people, who is supposed to provide oversight of the government’s defense activities and help give direction in diplomatic affairs, will simply not be able to give this critical role his full attention. This elected official, who is supposed to be following every budgetary transfer of taxpayer money, won’t have a clue what the government is doing with our money. He will simply serve as a rubber stamp for whatever the government wants to do.
And who suffers? The citizens of Israel.
Aside from the impossibility of properly carrying out those responsibilities, membership in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee includes being exposed to sensitive security information, requiring a high degree of trust in the committee members. But MK Hazan has lied outright to the people of Israel. First, he promised, in an interview on Army Radio, that he would take a polygraph test in order to prove that he did not engage in drug activity and the immoral exploitation of women in Bulgaria. He promised. He then backtracked and said he changed his mind and would not take the lie detector test.
In the second instance, after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein boldly removed Hazan – a member of his own party! – from the schedule of deputies who chair the plenum, Hazan issued a statement claiming that Edelstein had not removed him, but that he had chosen to take time away from the plenum to consult with his attorneys.
The first situation is an outright falsehood. As for the second, I will let you be the judge. A situation where someone sitting on such a sensitive committee displays this type of dishonest behavior is not something citizens of Israel should accept.
What happened in Bulgaria? We don’t know for sure. But what is happening in Israel – where we know for sure that a freshman MK demanded the honor of important positions that he cannot possibly fulfill, while breaching the trust of the people, should be our greatest concern.
There is no existing mechanism to remove an MK from office for these noncriminal breaches of trust and improper behavior. The only way to expect exemplary character from our leaders is for people to vote for leaders with values.
We can only assume that the Likud leadership and membership will do what is necessary to ensure that Hazan will not to return to the Knesset.
Unfortunately, this does not guarantee that we won’t be faced with another Hazan-like personality in the next Knesset. When MK Hazan appeared at the Likud central committee meeting last week, he received a hero’s welcome. This week members of that same central committee went to the polls and decided that while the party’s top Knesset candidates will continue to be chosen by its 100,000 members, slots further down the list reserved for new candidates from specific regions will be selected by the 3,770 central committee members. The same wheeling and dealing behind closed doors that brought Hazan into the 20th Knesset can easily produce new MKs, like Hazan, with serious flaws in the next Knesset, and the broader Likud membership will not be able to prevent it.
As someone who cares deeply about the Knesset and what it stands for, and understands the role that each and every MK can play in affecting our lives, it is my hope and prayer that all political parties – whether they choose their Knesset candidate list through a primary, a committee or by the party leader – will remember the shame and embarrassment of this Hazan fiasco. Even more important, the parties must remember the damage and paralyzing effect these types of leaders can have on the Knesset’s oversight of the government.
We, the citizens, must demand that they do everything in their power to select Knesset candidates who, first and foremost, are trustworthy and of pure character.
The writer served as an MK for Yesh Atid in the last Knesset.