Politicians on the Left were furious at Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz Thursday for pushing them to vote for MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua) for president, after sexual-harassment allegations against the latter came to light.
Meanwhile, Sheetrit, runner- up in Tuesday’s presidential race, denied that he paid his former housekeeper NIS 270,000 to silence her after she accused him of sexual harassment.
According to the Channel 10 report from Wednesday night, the housekeeper claimed Sheetrit harassed her after she was fired two years ago, and he paid her so she wouldn’t sue him and his wife, Ruti.
Party leaders on the Left, including opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Meretz’s Zehava Gal-On, united behind Sheetrit in the second round of voting in the presidential race, leading many to proclaim that there is a new political alliance in the Knesset with the potential to pull apart the current government.
Now, however, sources in both parties say they regret supporting Sheetrit and are angry at him and Hatnua for hiding information.
On Thursday morning, Labor faction chairman Eitan Cabel wrote Sheetrit an SMS text message that he and Herzog “feel betrayed.”
“We met with [Sheetrit] and asked him very blunt questions,” Cabel told Channel 10, “He said very clear, direct things to us and now everyone tells us it was a bluff, garbage. It’s not very fair.”
Other lawmakers who supported Sheetrit in the second round were Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen with a group of Yesh Atid MKs and most of the Arab parties.
Livni’s office said she directly asked Sheetrit if he sexually harassed anyone and he said that he did not and he would fight to prove his innocence.
Israel Police said that it checked the incident a year-and-a-half ago and found that there is no evidential basis for the investigation. At the moment, there is no police investigation or process in place on these allegations and there will only be one if more information comes in.
The Justice Ministry made similar comments, adding that the police spoke to the housekeeper and that Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein was told that there is no investigation against Sheetrit two weeks ago.
Weinstein then sent a letter to the government explaining that there was not enough evidence to open an investigation.
In response to the allegations, Sheetrit said that all his public and personal activities, throughout his life, were clean, including the incident with the housekeeper.
“This was a civil and financial dispute with the housekeeper, which a senior labor lawyer settled in my name. As part of the agreement, we are keeping the details confidential,” Sheetrit added.
The former presidential candidate also lamented the dirty politics that characterized the election campaign, saying that “whoever slings mud does not deserve to be president.”
Sheetrit’s attorneys said that there has never been a police investigation of their client and he was not asked to testify to the police in connection to the claims of the report.