Former Prime Minister’s Office chief of staff Natan Eshel sent a veiled threat
of a libel suit to incoming Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg on Monday, after she
publicly called for him not to represent Likud Beytenu in coalition
In a short email to Zandberg, Eshel wrote she “does not have
immunity from slander yet,” referring to the parliamentary immunity she will
receive after being sworn into the 19th Knesset next week.
“There is no
claim that I harassed anyone, and certainly not sexually, and there is no
limitation on my public activities,” Eshel wrote. “I didn’t hear you tweet about
[Haim] Ramon, who was convicted [of indecent assault].”
concluded: “Stop your slander, which was not said innocently, and fix the
Zandberg took to her Facebook page after receiving the email
to say that Eshel is going after those who seek justice, and is continuing in
the path that led him to leave public service.
“The practice of
whitewashing sex crimes and calling them ‘inappropriate behavior’ is well known
from past cases, as are the methods of trying to intimidate the brave people who
raise their voices,” she wrote.
According to Zandberg, she and Revital
Madar, who opened the Facebook petition, want “one simple thing: Stop Eshel’s
presence in public life, as the plea bargain established.”
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich published on her Facebook page on Monday an email
Eshel sent to Shlomit Barneah-Pargo, legal adviser at the Prime Minister’s
Office, and accidentally copied to Yacimovich, apparently because both of their
first names start with “sh.”
The email indicates Likud Beytenu planned to
put Eshel at the head of its negotiating team.
“The prime minister and
[former foreign] minister [Avigdor] Liberman want me to stand at the head of
their negotiating team to form the next coalition,” Eshel wrote. “Does my
commitment not to work for the government – not public or political service –
make this a problem, or is it OK?” Yacimovich called the email “bothersome,
incriminating, but also amusing,” and pointed out that others in the Prime
Minister’s Office were dismissed for complaining about Eshel’s behavior, while
the perpetrator “is still running the country like nothing
“Now that Natan Eshel is back in our lives, and denies that
he’s involved in negotiations, read the email and judge for yourselves,” the
Labor leader wrote.
Likud Beytenu reiterated on Monday night that its
negotiations team consists of Yitzhak Molcho, David Shimron, Moshe Leon and Yoav
In the past, party sources have said that Eshel will be an external
adviser to the talks, but the party would not comment on Monday as to whether he
has been removed from that post.
However, a senior Likud Beytenu source
pointed out that if Yesh Atid wants to be picky about moral issues, then they
should get rid of Uri Shani, an adviser to former prime minister Ariel Sharon
and the head of their negotiating team, who was convicted of breach of trust in
1999, while Eshel was never charged with any crime.
On Sunday night,
following a letter from Zandberg to Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and a
Facebook petition that garnered nearly 4,500 members, Yesh Atid said they will
not participate in coalition talks if Eshel is involved.
Eshel left his
post as chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office in February after a plea
bargain with the Civil Service Commission, which determined he invaded a female
staffer’s privacy by photographing her without her permission and entering her
personal email account.
As part of the deal, Eshel agreed not to return
to the civil service, but he remains close with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and his family.