Speaker Yuli Edelstein suspended his deputy, Likud MK Oren Hazan, on Tuesday after allegations arose that Hazan "arranged" escorts for gamblers at a casino in Bulgaria and used hard drugs.
Hazan has vehemently denied a Channel 2 report that he committed a number of crimes, decrying the "sick imaginations" of the media. A post on his Facebook page said he was preparing a libel suit.
In an interview with Channel 10 on Tuesday evening, Hazan said "There were no light drugs and there were no hard drugs, there were no prostitutes and no pimping. Have you gone crazy? I'm not apologizing and I'm saying this clearly - these things never happened."
Hazan's attorney, Avraham Keren, said his client had a medical problem, noting that if Hazan used drugs he could die.
The political ramifications for Hazan are still unclear. Legally, a sitting deputy speaker can only be dismissed in a vote that requires a majority of 90 MKs supporting impeachment.
Hazan serves in four different Knesset committee, including the prestigious Foreign Affairs and Defense and the Finance committees. The Likud party can expel or suspend MKs from committees using an internal procedure, but so far this has only been done to sanction MKs rebelling against the coalition's positions.
According to the Channel 2 report, Hazan managed a casino in Bulgaria, where he allegedly procured prostitutes for his friends and smoked hard drugs.
An Israeli tourist told Channel 2 Hazan helped guide him to prostitutes. "He knew how things worked, took us to... prostitutes... spoiled us. He knew the right people. He knew where and what, he knew where to go," the tourist said, adding that Hazan "paid for us."
"He used to send me, he called me and said, 'go get the girls. Go pick some girls, pretty girls, with large chests and tall, and bring these girls here, for my friends," a driver at the casino told Channel 2. The driver noted that Hazan "paid for everyone."
The manager of the Red Rose club located next to the casino, according to the report, served essentially as an escort service.
The club manager said that Hazan – whom she described as "the big boss" – took 500 lev, or about NIS 1,200.
"The driver would come here and talk to me," she said. "I would tell him the price and then he would take (the girls)," she said, adding that Hazan would pay up front and then ride off with the women.
The report also showed a casino patron who said he had spent an entire night smoking cannabis and crystal methamphetamine with Hazan, who purchased the drugs.
A tourist interviewed for the report said that two friends would go with Hazan to buy the meth. "I wasn't with them when they made the purchase, but they bought from someone, some dealer they found on the street," he said.
"They did a little with him and then came back with it. We went back to the hotel and smoked a little. We smoked grass and did crystal meth that night."
An Israeli casino employee corroborated this account. "We went to some guy on the street," he said. "We didn't know what crystal meth was. Somehow we got to him bringing something, and he brought us that blue."
The employee said he was certain that Hazan also did the drug. "Definitely. One hundred per cent. One hundred percent."
Hazan is also said to be considered a persona non grata in Bulgaria, Channel 1 reported on Tuesday evening.
According to the report, a Bulgarian official turned to Edelstein two and a half months ago right after Hazan, number 30 on the Likud list, was elected to the Knesset, and asked that Hazan did not take part in any joint Israeli-Bulgarian parliamentary activity.
The Knesset speaker's office declined to comment on the report, but according to Channel 1, the story was confirmed by other sources.