Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein announced Sunday evening he will not ask the
police to investigate allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office’s chief of
staff Natan Eshel harassed a female employee.
The announcement came after
the Civil Service Commission presented a progress report to Weinstein earlier on
Sunday regarding its preliminary inquiry into the allegations.
attorney-general has said he will continue to monitor developments in the
investigation closely, including during a business trip to Washington next
Also on Sunday evening, Eshel’s lawyer, Yaakov Weinrot, announced
his client was taking a 10-day leave of absence, in the hope the matter would
run its course during that period.
Eshel is suspected of harassing and
intruding on the privacy of the female staffer, known only by the initial of her
first name, ‘R.’ According to reports, the allegations were brought to the
attention of the attorney-general by the cabinet secretary, Tzvi Hauser, the
communications director, Yoaz Hendel, and military attaché Maj.- Gen. Yohanan
A Justice Ministry spokesman said that following Sunday’s
meeting, Weinstein made the decision not to transfer the investigation to the
police, saying there was “no justification to deviate from the accepted measures
in this matter.”
Instead, the attorney-general announced that in the
light of the allegations against Eshel and the testimonies and evidence gathered
by the Civil Service Commission over recent days, the commission’s
Investigations Branch will now carry out a full investigation into the matter,
including questioning those connected to the matter.
The head of the
Civil Service’s disciplinary branch is also involved in the investigation, which
is being conducted in collaboration with the attorney- general and his office,
the Justice Ministry noted.
A spokesman for the ministry said that when
the allegations were first passed to Weinstein in December, those who gave the
information asked that their identities be kept secret.
those who gave the information did not turn at that stage to the investigative
authorities, according to their explicit request, and it was decided instead
that the reliability of their information be examined using other channels,” the
Justice Ministry said.
The Justice Ministry also noted that so far R. has
refused to make a formal complaint, and has said she will not testify in the
Although R.’s lawyer, Harel Arnon, wrote to Weinstein on
Sunday, asking that she be permitted not to testify, the attorney- general
informed her that as a government employee she is compelled to report to the Civil Service Commission’s investigators.
According to the Justice
Ministry, in December, several days after the allegations first came to light,
those who passed the information to Weinstein’s office were asked to check
whether R. would make a formal complaint.
However, R. refused to do so or
even to give any information, and so in early January those who passed on the
allegations were asked to check whether she would instead agree to meet a senior
official from the Attorney-General’s Office and bring the complaint to
However, at that early stage R. said she had no idea that anyone had
approached the attorney-general and that she would refuse to testify in any form
should she be asked to do so.
The Justice Ministry noted that earlier
this month, the name of a potential witness to the alleged harassment was also
put forward to Weinstein’s office, who passed all the details to the Civil
Service Commission and ordered a preliminary inquiry into the reliability of the
However, the names of those who had brought the allegations
to Weinstein’s office were not given to the Civil Service Commission, after they
specifically asked to remain anonymous, the Justice Ministry said.
taking a statement from that witness, the Civil Service Commission decided the
testimony did not justify opening an investigation, and so asked those who had
brought the allegations to Weinstein for details of other potential witnesses.
As a result, another witness was found, and she gave a statement on January
On the basis of those two witness statements, the commission decided
to open an investigation against Eshel, the Justice Ministry said.
that time, the Civil Service Commission’s inquiry has uncovered significant new
information, which resulted in the decision to open a full investigation, the
In R.’s lawyer’s letter, he asked that his client not be
compelled to testify and said that R. wanted to remain anonymous.
client’s right, the right of everybody, is to decide autonomously if she feels
harmed by someone’s behavior and if she wants to share those feelings with
others,” Arnon said.
Arnon wrote Weinstein that R. received a summons to
testify “hours” after the media broke the story about the Civil Service
Commission’s investigation of suspicion that a “senior [Prime Minister’s Office]
official” had harassed a young female staffer and allegedly invaded her
“In this context, we wish to unequivocally clarify that our
client’s position is that she does not wish to complain,” Arnon told Weinstein.
“She does not wish to give a statement or testify and she does not wish to bring
disciplinary or criminal legal proceedings.”
Noting that R.’s position
was “enshrined in law,” Arnon emphasized the Prime Minister Office staffer had
never made a complaint against Eshel.
“She considers the demand to make a
statement or give details of what did or did not happen at her workplace as
serious invasions of her privacy and as depriving her of her free will,” Arnon
said. “Moreover, she also considers herself exempt from the need to explain or
elaborate on this position.”
Arnon said forcing R. to testify would be
“coercion,” “morally wrong” and a “fatal blow to her dignity and fundamental
rights, as protected by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.”
enforcement agencies are not permitted to harm the privacy, freedom or dignity
of an alleged victim, because of their desire to ‘protect’ their values,” Arnon
wrote in his letter to Weinstein.
Also in the letter, Arnon raised
concerns about the timing of the media reports about the alleged harassment,
which he said were very closely followed by the Civil Service Commission’s
summons to R., even though R. had not complained herself.
serious questions about how the authorities in general, and the Civil Service
Commission and the Justice Ministry in particular, are safeguarding our client’s
right to privacy and dignity, as protected by law,” Arnon said.