Eshel threatens to sue over coalition talks petition

Ex-PMO chief of staff to incoming Meretz MK: You don't have parliamentary immunity yet; Yacimovich exposes e-mail showing Netanyahu, Liberman asked Eshel to lead negotiations.

Nathan Eshel 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Nathan Eshel 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Former Prime Minister’s Office chief of staff Natan Eshel sent a veiled threat of a libel suit to incoming Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg on Monday, after she publicly called for him not to represent Likud Beytenu in coalition talks.
In a short email to Zandberg, Eshel wrote she “does not have immunity from slander yet,” referring to the parliamentary immunity she will receive after being sworn into the 19th Knesset next week.
“There is no claim that I harassed anyone, and certainly not sexually, and there is no limitation on my public activities,” Eshel wrote. “I didn’t hear you tweet about [Haim] Ramon, who was convicted [of indecent assault].”
The email concluded: “Stop your slander, which was not said innocently, and fix the distortion.”
Zandberg took to her Facebook page after receiving the email to say that Eshel is going after those who seek justice, and is continuing in the path that led him to leave public service.
“The practice of whitewashing sex crimes and calling them ‘inappropriate behavior’ is well known from past cases, as are the methods of trying to intimidate the brave people who raise their voices,” she wrote.
According to Zandberg, she and Revital Madar, who opened the Facebook petition, want “one simple thing: Stop Eshel’s presence in public life, as the plea bargain established.”
Meanwhile, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich published on her Facebook page on Monday an email Eshel sent to Shlomit Barneah-Pargo, legal adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office, and accidentally copied to Yacimovich, apparently because both of their first names start with “sh.”
The email indicates Likud Beytenu planned to put Eshel at the head of its negotiating team.
“The prime minister and [former foreign] minister [Avigdor] Liberman want me to stand at the head of their negotiating team to form the next coalition,” Eshel wrote. “Does my commitment not to work for the government – not public or political service – make this a problem, or is it OK?” Yacimovich called the email “bothersome, incriminating, but also amusing,” and pointed out that others in the Prime Minister’s Office were dismissed for complaining about Eshel’s behavior, while the perpetrator “is still running the country like nothing happened.”
“Now that Natan Eshel is back in our lives, and denies that he’s involved in negotiations, read the email and judge for yourselves,” the Labor leader wrote.
Likud Beytenu reiterated on Monday night that its negotiations team consists of Yitzhak Molcho, David Shimron, Moshe Leon and Yoav Mani.
In the past, party sources have said that Eshel will be an external adviser to the talks, but the party would not comment on Monday as to whether he has been removed from that post.
However, a senior Likud Beytenu source pointed out that if Yesh Atid wants to be picky about moral issues, then they should get rid of Uri Shani, an adviser to former prime minister Ariel Sharon and the head of their negotiating team, who was convicted of breach of trust in 1999, while Eshel was never charged with any crime.
On Sunday night, following a letter from Zandberg to Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and a Facebook petition that garnered nearly 4,500 members, Yesh Atid said they will not participate in coalition talks if Eshel is involved.
Eshel left his post as chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office in February after a plea bargain with the Civil Service Commission, which determined he invaded a female staffer’s privacy by photographing her without her permission and entering her personal email account.
As part of the deal, Eshel agreed not to return to the civil service, but he remains close with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his family.