Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz, the front-runner in the upcoming elections, was accused on Wednesday of sexual misconduct some 40 years ago when he was a senior in high school.
Navarone (Nava in Hebrew) Jacobs posted on her Facebook page that she was sexually harassed by Gantz when she was 14 and they were studying at Hakfar Hayarok boarding school in central Israel. At the time, Jacobs was a freshman and Gantz was a senior.
Channel 13 was the first news outlet to publicize the allegations.
Gantz denied the allegations, saying they are political libel and hinting that they were initiated by the Likud.
“A blatant lie,” Blue and White said in a statement. “Yesterday it was a blood libel over the graves of fallen soldiers. Tonight it is baseless slander about Benny and his days at Hakfar Hayarok in the 1970s. The political incitement has reached a new low. We are pursuing legal action.”
The Likud rejected Blue and White’s accusation against the party, saying in a statement, “The Likud is not connected to the publication about Benny Gantz on social media.”
A former IDF chief of staff, Gantz is the chairman of the newly formed Blue and White Party. According to polls, the party has the strongest chance of defeating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in the elections on April 9.
In a letter to Jacobs, an attorney for Gantz said the timing of her post proves that political interests had sent her in order to hurt Gantz’s campaign.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview from New York, Jacobs said that she went to the school’s barnyard “to visit the cows,” and Gantz appeared out of nowhere and pulled down his pants, revealing his penis. She said that he moved toward her and that she felt “in danger,” but a friend intervened and “he never touched me, not at all.”
The friend pulled Gantz away from Jacobs, according to her post. Jacobs said she will never forget his eyes when he looked at her.
“For many years, I remembered the terrifying and threatening eyes when he looked at me and held his erect penis in front of me,” Jacobs wrote.
She described Gantz as having been around the age of 17 or 18 and bigger than most teenagers. She said she was paralyzed with fear when he approached her with a look of a “wild animal,” laughing throughout the incident.
Hakfar Hayarok confirmed that Gantz and Jacobs overlapped at the school. The school’s CEO, Dr. Kobi Naveh, said “we are very proud of him. I have no doubt that we are dealing with a moral and straightforward person,” noting that he does not believe that Gantz is capable of such behavior.
He added that in all of the years that Gantz studied at the school, he was never accused of any sexual misconduct – “not even the slightest indication of sexual misconduct,” or any other related behavior.
Naveh said Jacobs attended the school for one year between 1975 and 1976, in ninth grade, and then left. He said that she never reported any incident.
“No one remembers her, and no one remembers why she left,” he said. “Nothing is recorded. She never reported anything.”
Jacobs told the Post that she moved to New York in 1980, and that the incident might have influenced her decision to leave the country. She said she developed fibromyalgia – a chronic pain condition – at a young age, and that her life was destroyed. She said that the incident caused her to never trust men, and as a result she never married.
Jacobs, who works in the film industry, said she had kept the incident a secret for all these years until she started to see Gantz’s face appear on ads for the premiership. Asked why she didn’t come forward when Gantz was appointed chief of staff, Jacobs said that she was physically not well at the time, and therefore was not in a position to take action.
“It is my country,” she told the Post. “I am not going to let someone like that run for prime minister when I know what he did.”
In her discussion with the Post, Jacobs said there is another victim who has shared a similar story – a seven-year-old girl to whom Gantz exposed himself – but the individual has asked to remain anonymous.
In her interview with Channel 13, Jacobs said that two months ago, she asked more women to come forward, but none have.
Jacobs said she is “not enjoying this now,” and that she is not affiliated with any party. As a US resident, she cannot vote in the upcoming election. Rather, she said, she is “just telling my story.”
“In the last few weeks, I have seen Benny Gantz in the media, and the whole incident came back to me as if it had happened only yesterday,” she wrote in her post. “Everyone sees Benny Gantz, the man and the commander, and I see Benny Gantz the pervert, who did not pity a frightened little girl and ruined her life.”
Raising suspicion was what Jacobs wrote on November 29, 2017, when she posted about sexual misconduct . She wrote: "A famous television broadcaster was fired from his job today in the United States on charges of sexual harassment. It is unbelievable and wrong that when a young woman comes with no proof and just says that she was harassed without a clear sentence, without checking it out, they throw a person out of his work and create a stigma around him. It is simply delusional. Any woman who decides to take revenge for something will come with a story!!"
Judith Yehezkely, a former reporter for Israel Radio and Yediot Aharonot and a good friend of Jacobs, told the Post that Jacobs called her and told her the story about Gantz before posting on Facebook. Yehezkely said she cautioned Jacobs that there would be backlash, but said that her friend decided to go forward anyway.
She described Jacobs as “trustworthy” and “believable,” and a person dealing with a “very difficult situation. She is a good friend of mine,” Yehezkely said, “and she can be trusted.”
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