Yesh Atid will not negotiate with former Prime Minister’s Office chief of staff
Natan Eshel, after incoming Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and the Women’s
International Zionist Organization wrote petitions to Attorney-General Yehuda
Weinstein demanding he not be part of Likud Beytenu’s coalition talks
Eshel left his post in February after a plea bargain with the Civil
Service Commission, which determined he harassed a female staffer and invaded
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
Likud Beytenu reportedly plans to have Netanyahu’s attorney David
Shimron lead the negotiations, while Eshel will serve as an external, unofficial
adviser on the talks.
Following complaints from Zandberg and WIZO, Yesh
Atid announced on Sunday night that they would not participate in talks if Eshel
“Like many other women, I was dumbfounded by this
information,” Zandberg wrote.
“Eshel admitted to inappropriate behavior
with the female worker, photographed her without her permission and went through
her personal email.”
Zandberg demanded that Weinstein enforce the plea
bargain and instruct Netanyahu not to use Eshel in any public
“Send a clear message that sexual harassment and violence
against women are serious crimes,” she wrote.
The incoming Meretz MK
quoted Weinstein as saying that Eshel’s resignation “is a moral message to all
government employees, no matter how senior, that we will not ignore phenomena
like those found in the investigation.”
Zandberg expressed outrage upon
learning Eshel is once again advising Netanyahu on a “significant component of
Israeli democracy” that will influence Israelis in the coming
“This fact is disrespectful to women and makes light of Eshel’s
actions in a government office,” she wrote. “His return [to public service]
through the back door and against the spirit of the plea deal authorizes
violence against women and sends the message that crimes like this are not
serious enough that their punishment be enforced.”
WIZO Israel chairwoman
Gila Oshrat also petitioned Weinstein, asking that Eshel’s appointment be
“Even in a workplace like the Prime Minister’s Office there is
not a safe climate, and women are exposed to repeated harm,” she wrote. “Eshel’s
return to public life sends a clear message to women that they should not
complain [if sexually harassed].”
Meanwhile, a Facebook group calling for
parties to boycott coalition talks if Eshel is involved had over 2,800 members
at press time.
“The sex offender Natan Eshel will be part of the Likud’s
negotiation team in forming the next government,” the group explains. “Thus,
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to authorize violence against
The group specifically mentions Yesh Atid, calling for the women
in the party not to be a “fig leaf” covering Eshel’s actions, and the Bayit
Yehudi, saying the party must clarify that the will not tolerate his continued
presence in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Yoaz Hendel, a journalist and
former director of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office who filed a
complaint against Eshel at the beginning of 2012, and resigned soon after,
addressed the issue in a note on his Facebook page.
“Until today, I made
sure not to deal with the Natan Eshel scandal, but this must be said – and not
because of the price I paid personally – we cannot reconcile ourselves to having
those who make decisions give up moral norms,” Hendel wrote. “We deserve a
personal example [from leaders] and not a smudging of the border between good
A letter from an incoming MK or a petition is not necessary to
understand this, he added, only common sense.
“Never mind new
politics. Clean politics is enough,” Hendel concluded.
Beytenu did not respond to requests to comment on the matter.