US Ambassador Ron Dermer .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Friday that he did not pass on a 2016 warning about David Keyes to the prime minister.
Keyes, the prime minister's spokesman for foreign media, took a leave of absence from his job on Thursday after a series of accusations of sexual misconduct - including several allegations of sexual assault.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that Bret Stephens, at the time the deputy opinion editor of the Wall Street Journal, warned Dermer in 2016 that Keyes posed a risk to women employed by the Israeli government.
Dermer confirmed the conversation on Friday, but said the information was not passed on to Netanyahu.
"The ambassador received a phone call from Bret Stephens more than six months after David Keyes began working in the Prime Minister’s Office, regarding behavior attributed to Keyes before he joined the office,” according to a statement from Dermer’s office.
“Information of the call was not conveyed to the Prime Minister's Office. If Stephens or anyone else had given the ambassador information on sexual assault or any other criminal act towards women by anyone in the Prime Minister's Office - whether before or after their appointment - he would have immediately notified the Prime Minister's Office.”
On Saturday evening, Meretz MK Michal Rozin wrote a letter to the civil service commissioner, calling for an immediate investigation into the incident and Dermer's behavior.
"It cannot be that turning a blind eye and avoiding responsibility constitutes a flak jacket for this apparent failure," said Rozin, the former director of the Association for Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, "especially when above all is the thunderous silence of the prime minister."
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Stephens, the former editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post
who is currently a New York Times
columnist, has not spoken publicly about his conversation with Dermer. The New York Times
reported on Thursday that Stephens told Dermer in 2016 that Keyes posed a risk to Israeli women employed in government offices.
In 2013, while Stephens was the deputy opinion editor at the Wall Street Journal,
Keyes was barred from the newspaper's offices after repeated advances on young women who worked there.
Over the past week, at least a dozen accusations of sexual harassment, assault and unwanted workplace advances have emerged against Keyes.
On Saturday, Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said Netanyahu should fire Keyes immediately.
"The difference between [fellow Zionist Union MK Eitan] Broshi," who has been accused of sexual harassment, "and between someone who works in the Prime Minister's Office, is that we can't fire an elected representative," Livni said in remarks in Holon. "The prime minister, in order to kick out of his office a serial harasser, just needs to tell him to go."
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