David Keyes, the foreign media spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Thursday that he is “taking time off” after multiple accusations of sexual assault and harassment.
In a statement, Keyes said that “in light of the false and misleading accusations against me and in order not to distract from the important work of the prime minister, I have asked to take time off to clear my name. I am fully confident that the truth will come out.”
The announcement came the same day that several lawmakers called for Netanyahu to suspend Keyes and investigate the accusations. Over the past week, at least 12 women
have reportedly accused the spokesman of sexual assault or harassment.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that it accepted Keyes’s decision to take a leave of absence. Three female MKs from three different parties called on Thursday for Keyes to be suspended from his position.
“I think Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to get involved,” Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari tweeted on Thursday.
“It’s not logical that a top adviser harasses – you could say obsessively – many women, and continues his job as if nothing happened.”
Ben-Ari said that if she, “God forbid,” had an adviser like that, “I would place him that day on unpaid leave until all the facts are cleared up.”
Meretz MK Michal Rozin, who is the former director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, also said on Thursday that Keyes had to go.
“Keyes can no longer represent Israel in the foreign media,” she said.
“The silence of the prime minister can be interpreted in the world as accepting his behavior. The brave testimonies that have been revealed in recent days paint a disturbing picture of a pattern of offense.”
Rozin said that Keyes doesn’t just represent Netanyahu abroad, but also the State of Israel “and the message that is being sent by his silence is agreement.” She added that the prime minister should suspend Keyes and investigate the facts of the case.
Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie said Thursday that “the silence of the Prime Minister’s Office is enraging, and could be interpreted as acceptance of these acts. This cannot be the face of Israel, and the prime minister must suspend Keyes from all activities until the allegations are clarified.”
Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel of Likud did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Michal Gera-Margaliot, the executive director of the Israel Women’s Network, told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday that Netanyahu must act.
“As you know, this is not the fairst time that an employee in the Prime Minister’s Office has been accused of sexual harassment and assault,” said Gera-Margaliot. “We expect the prime minister to release a statement that the allegations against David Keyes are being investigated, and until then he is suspended from regular work.”
She added that the Prime Minister’s Office must “commit to maintaining a safe working environment for all its employees.”
Gera-Margaliot was referring to the case of Natan Eshel, the former Netanyahu chief of staff who was accused of sexually harassing an employee over a period of several years. Eshel was replaced as chief of staff by Gil Sheffer, who was later accused of sexual assault and harassment by multiple women. Police recommended Sheffer be indicted, but prosecutors ultimately chose not to press charges.
Galia Wolloch, the president of Na’amat – The Movement for the Advancement of the Status of Women, told the Post
on Thursday that it is clear the issue must be addressed immediately.
“We’re talking about a man who works directly with the prime minister,” said Wolloch. “We expect the issue to be fully investigated. It is inconceivable that people with a record like this would work in close proximity to the prime minister.”
On Tuesday, New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar stated that she was sexually assaulted by Keyes in New York in 2013. An anonymous complaint was made against Keyes in 2016, when he was first appointed to his current job, but was dismissed.
But this week, Salazar said she wanted to preempt an article intending to name her as the complainant. She told Jezebel on Tuesday that after meeting for coffee, the pair went to Keyes’ home, where he held her down and forced her to perform oral sex.
That same day, Wall Street Journal
reporter Shayndi Raice said she also had a “terrible encounter” with Keyes, where “No matter how often I said no, he would not stop pushing himself on me.”
Since those accusations, reporting on Israel’s Channel Ten and in the Times of Israel has indicated that at least a dozen women allege that Keyes assaulted or harassed them. Keyes continues to deny all the accusations against him
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