Nathan Eshel 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The alleged harassment case in the Prime Minister's Office took a significant turn Wednesday when the Hebrew media reported that allegations against bureau chief Natan Eshel were brought to the attention of the attorney general by at least two of the top officials in the PMO.
According to the reports, Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser and communications director Yoaz Hendel took the complaints of a female staffer to attorney general Yehuda Weinstein. Weinstein then directed the Civil Service Commission's disciplinary division to conduct a preliminary investigation into the matter.
The woman complained that Eshel, her direct boss, intruded on her privacy by going through her cellular phone messages and emails, and harassed her by following her outside working hours. The woman herself had refused to complain, but told others in the office about the situation.
The Prime Minister's Office had no comment Wednesday on the new developments.
Neither Eshel, one of Netanyahu's closest advisors, nor the woman came to work on Wednesday. According to media reports, Netanyahu was not notified previously of the allegations.
The civil rights group Ometz on Wednesday appealed to Harel Locker, the PMO's director-general, asking him to suspend Eshel until the completion of an inquiry into the matter.
In a letter sent to Locker, Weinstein and Civil Service Commissioner attorney Moshe Dayan, Ometz's director Arieh Avneri said the PMO's "rush to declare the affair to be 'gossip' is premature in the light of the fact that the female staffer whom Eshel is suspected of harassing has not yet been investigated and has not given her version."
On Tuesday, when Army radio first broke the story, the PMO issued a statement dismissing the allegations as "gossip."
Avneri told The Post he also requested that Locker ensure that during the Civil Service Commission's examination of the allegations there was no conflict of interest, since Eshel had been directly involved in Dayan's appointment.
The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying that the allegations against Eshel were not sexual in nature, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.
"This is not true and the allegations against him have no sexual nature whatsoever," the statement said.