PM upset he had to learn of Eshel affair from press

Netanyahu says top aides made right choice by reporting alleged harassment, but erred by not informing him of affair.

By
February 22, 2012 14:10
1 minute read.
PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu

PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday publicly related for the first time to the Natan Eshel scandal engulfing his office, saying that he should not have had to learn about it from the press.

Asked at a press conference dealing with economic issues why he did not publicly back up the three senior advisers in his office who initially took allegations to the Civil Services Commission that Eshel harassed a female subordinate, Netanyahu replied that it was "inappropriate" that he should have to hear about such a major incident taking place in his office from the press.

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Netanyahu's communications director Yoaz Hendel, cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser and military attaché Yohanan Locker, filed a complaint to the attorney-general against Eshel, the prime minister's close confidant and chief of staff, eventually leading to his being forced out of office.

Hendel submitted his resignation to Netanyahu after the prime minister told him and Hauser on Monday that he had lost confidence in them.

"I will say what I think is the appropriate behavior, and what is not," Netanyahu said Wednesday.  "What is appropriate is that if there is a suspicion of harassment, it needs to be dealt with according to the law.  That is exactly what I would have done."

What is inappropriate, he said, is for the person at the top of the pyramid not to "know that something so central is happening in his office for a month and a half,  and that he needs to hear about it from journalists."

"That is a tough, hurtful, uncomfortable situation," he said.

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At the same time, Netanyahu added that he wished this would be the greatest challenge Israel had to face.  "Israel has much greater challenges," he said.

Netanyahu met with Hendel and Hauser on Monday and upbraided them for not coming to him first about the affair.  Hendel and Hauser acted on the advice of former attorney-general Menachem Mazuz, who advised them not to get the prime minister involved, but rather to go directly to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.

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