A letter complaining of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar's sexual misconduct is a forgery by his political rivals, senior Likud sources close to Sa'ar said Tuesday.
According to Sa'ar's allies, the letter is an "ugly" attempt by other Likud ministers to prevent him from getting a senior portfolio in the next government.
On Monday, the Justice Ministry announced that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein instructed police to begin a preliminary investigation of a letter sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud activists signed by M.C., an Education Ministry employee.
The letter claims that M.C. had a romantic relationship with Sa'ar, in which he took advantage of his position as minister. The M.C. who still works with Sa'ar says she did not write the letter, but has not answered inquiries as to why she did not complain to the police about the alleged forgery.
While current Likud MKs avoided commenting on the issue until the circumstances surrounding the allegations become clearer, former MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen expressed certainty that the letter is part of "a very systematic campaign that includes YouTube clips and articles pulled out of the archive by this or that reporter who badmouthed him."
"The police will easily find those responsible for the campaign. Usually, 'assassination' attempts come from within the family, because of the strong competition in the Likud," Shama-Hacohen told Army Radio.
MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Likud Beytenu) told Army Radio Sa'ar was a great minister, and expressed hope that the allegations will not harm his future.
"It will be very unfortunate if in the end this turns out to be a political plot," she stated.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On also said that, while she is unsure of whether the letter was forged or not, as someone who has helped women speak out against sexual harassment, she generally judges the veracity of a claim by one condition - whether the victim herself speaks out or not.
The Justice Ministry denied that Weinstein had been consulted about whether Sa’ar could be appointed as a minister with the allegations hanging over his head.
With an ongoing investigation, it would be difficult for Netanyahu to continue considering Sa’ar, No. 3 on the Likud Beytenu list, as a candidate for justice minister. The prime minister might prefer to make him a minister without portfolio, following a precedent set for Tzachi Hanegbi during a criminal investigation against him in 2004.
Not having to appoint Sa’ar to a ministry could be convenient for Netanyahu, who will have to reduce the number of ministers to close to 18 if Yesh Atid is in the coalition, as that has been one of the party’s demands in negotiations. Likud and Yisrael Beytenu have 19 ministers in the outgoing government, four of whom are not in the new Knesset, and the race for portfolios in the new coalition is very tight.