PMO in upheaval as Hendel resigns over Eshel affair

Hendel's resignation comes after Netanyahu criticized senior PMO staff for handling of Eshel charges; PM has yet to respond.

By
February 22, 2012 01:09
2 minute read.
Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem

Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem 311 (R). (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s communications director, Yoaz Hendel, submitted his resignation this week as a result of the Natan Eshel affair, Channel 2 reported on Tuesday night.

Hendel, along with cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser and military attaché Yohanan Locker, filed a complaint with the Civil Services Commission against Eshel, the prime minister’s chief of staff, for harassing a female subordinate, which eventually led to his being forced out of office.

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Eshel is a close Netanyahu confidant, and the incident has cast a huge cloud over the workings of his office. Hendel is Netanyahu’s fourth communications director since he took office in 2009.

The Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the matter Tuesday evening, and Hendel could not be reached for comment. The office did not issue any formal announcement of Hendel’s resignation.

Channel 2 also aired footage of an annoyed Netanyahu reproving Hauser at Sunday’s cabinet meeting – soon after the Civil Service Commission announced the deal with Eshel – for not ensuring that the door to the cabinet meeting was locked.

According to the report, Netanyahu met with Hendel and Hauser on Monday and upbraided them for not coming to him first about the affair and instead going directly to the commission. Hendel and Hauser acted on the advice of former attorney-general Menahem Mazuz, who advised them not to get the prime minister involved.

Netanyahu, in a meeting described as “harsh,” said he should not have to hear about such matters from the media.

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When he told the two that he had lost confidence in them, Hendel – according to the report – offered his resignation.

On Sunday evening, after Netanyahu named Gil Sheffer to replace Eshel, the prime minister issued a statement praising Eshel for his service. The statement did not, however, praise Hendel, Hauser and Locker for coming forward, even though the attorney-general, in his statement about the plea bargain arrangement, said they had acted appropriately and done what was required of them.

Labor Party head Shelly Yacimovich issued a statement following the news of Hendel’s resignation and the airing of Netanyahu’s admonishing Hauser, saying the prime minister was sending a message that those assisting a woman harassed at the workplace would be condemned and removed.

She said this “abandons women to those harassing them” and will frighten rational males who do the right and legal thing by coming to the aid of a female colleague being harassed.

Kadima head Tzipi Livni also issued a statement, saying Netanyahu’s behavior in the whole episode showed a “warped” value system that punished those who did the right thing and came forward.

“This is not the way someone should behave who purports to lead by example,” she said.

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