Former PMO Chief of Staff Natan Eshel.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Female lawmakers in the opposition have come out against Natan Eshel, who was expelled from the civil service for sexual harassment, being a part of the Likud’s coalition negotiations team.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the 10 female MKs and MK-designates from Blue and White wrote: “We as women and public representatives take seriously your choice, for such a central role of public significance, a person who as part of a pleas deal with the Civil Service Administration was found to have behaved inappropriately towards a worker in your office until he was expelled from civil service.”
Eshel, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, was found to have harassed a young female staffer in the Prime Minister’s Office, including taking photos under her skirt. Eshel was forced to resign in 2012 and agreed not to return to the civil service. He wrote on twitter that he views his participation in coalition talks as community service.
The Blue and White MKs asked if Eshel’s participation in the talks “is an appropriate message from a prime minister to the public? Is that the message to send to women specifically and to anyone who is in favor of integrity? We think this is not a legal matter, but one of values.
“Your choice send a negative message to the public in the fight against violence and sexual harassment,” they wrote. “We call on you to immediately cancel your decision and remove him from the coalition negotiations immediately.”
Yoaz Hendel, another soon-to-be MK from Blue and White, was Netanyahu’s spokesman in 2012 who reported Eshel’s harassment to the Civil Service Administration, and Hendel and then-cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser, also of Blue and White, resigned after Netanyahu said he no longer trusts them because they did not come to him first.
Hendel wrote on twitter: “Is there really no one in today’s Likud who dares to say this is not appropriate? That the message is problematic? If that’s the meaning of 35 seats in the coalition, I prefer to have 35 seats in the opposition.”
Earlier this week, Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg wrote a letter to the Justice Ministry calling for Eshel to be removed from the negotiations.
“Today we begin coalition negotiations, in which designated justice minister [Yariv Levin of Likud] is sitting together with the up-skirt photographer who promised not to return to public life,” Zandberg said. “In 2013, Eshel was also supposed to participate, but he folded due to public pressure. Now the shame is gone.”
However, on Monday the Justice Ministry said there is no legal reason to keep Eshel out of the negotiations and that participating does not go against the terms of his plea bargain.
The Likud's negotiating team is led by Levin, the outgoing tourism minister. The team includes Eshel, Likud spokesman Yonatan Urich and attorney Michael Rabello of the law firm Shimron, Molho and Persky. Past Likud coalition teams were led by Netanyahu confidant David Shimron of the same law firm, but Shimron is embroiled in the Submarine Affair.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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