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MK Shai: Fire PMO lawyer who gave Eshel legal advice
By LAHAV HARKOV
01/30/2013
Livni Party's Mitzna says Eshel and Ramon's involvement in politics after sexual misconduct "undoubtedly problematic."
 
The legal adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office should be dismissed for helping its former chief of staff, Natan Eshel, MK Nachman Shai (Labor) wrote in a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein yesterday.

“I ask that you urgently examine the activities and behavior of [Prime Minister’s Office legal adviser Shlomit] Barnea-Pargo, when it comes to Natan Eshel,” Shai wrote. “It seems like there were serious problems requiring, in my understanding, her dismissal.”

Barnea-Pargo and the Prime Minister’s Office denied media reports last week that she met with Eshel, who was forced to resign from his post in a plea deal over charges of sexual harassment, to speak about the possibility of him joining coalition talks.

Since then, however, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich released an email she accidentally received from Eshel, which was addressed to Barnea- Pargo and asked her to look into the legality of him being on the negotiation team.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Barnea-Pargo looked into legal, not ethical or public, aspects of Eshel being part of coalition negotiations, and whether it defied his plea bargain, and found that there are no legal limitations on him doing so if he is not an employee of the civil service. However, she suggested that Eshel consult with the Civil Service Commission.

In other words, not only did Eshel request a legal opinion from the Prime Minister’s Office adviser, he received one.

“Barnea-Pargo gave a legal opinion to Mr. Natan Eshel, even though it was not part of her job and and she was not asked to do so by the prime minister or anyone in his office,” Shai wrote in his letter to the attorney-general. “In addition, after she was asked about the topic, she denied her involvement, even though it turned out that she gave legal advice.”

Meanwhile, incoming Tzipi Livni Party MK Amram Mitzna spoke out against the involvement of people accused of sexual misconduct in public life – even former justice minister Haim Ramon, who was one of the party’s founders.

“On principle, I think that [Eshel] is an unworthy person to continue pulling the strings at the front of the stage, and should not do so backstage, either,” Mitzna said in an interview with Galei Israel, the Judea and Samaria local radio station. “If Netanyahu wants to ask him for advice behind closed doors, then fine, but it is not right to get to that point with these kinds of people.”

When asked about Ramon, who, unlike Eshel, was convicted of indecent assault, Mitzna responded: “That’s right. That’s why he was not in the front of the stage, and I think it’s undoubtably problematic.”

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.

Likud Beytenu reiterated on Monday night that its negotiations team consists of Yitzhak Molcho, David Shimron, Moshe Leon and Yoav Mani.

However, the party would not confirm or deny whether Eshel would be an external adviser in the process or comment on the issues surrounding him.
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