'3 PMO staff went to A-G over harassment charges'

Cabinet secretary, communications director, Maj.-Gen. reportedly took complaints of female staffer over Eshel to Weinstein.

Nathan Eshel 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
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 three senior 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. Later reports alleged that Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker also provided information to Weinstein, who directed the Civil Service Commission's disciplinary division to conduct a preliminary investigation into the matter. Sources close to Locker, however, said that he had not passed any information on to Weinstein, Israel Radio reported.
The woman complained that Eshel, her direct boss, intruded on her privacy by going through her cellular phone messages and e-mails, 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 advisers, 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 director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, 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 Prime Minister’s Office’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 Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement dismissing the allegations as “gossip.”
Avneri told The Jerusalem 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.
Late on Wednesday night, the Justice Ministry said that the Civil Service Commission had not yet completed the initial inquiry into the allegations, as requested by the attorney-general.
Also on Wednesday, the Civil Service Commission confirmed the attorney-general had ordered them to conduct a preliminary investigation into the reliability of the information received by the Justice Ministry about the harassment allegations.
That inquiry is being conducted in conjunction with Justice Ministry officials, who are being updated about it, a spokesman said.
The Justice Ministry added that it would not provide any details of how the information regarding the suspicions came to the attention of the attorney-general, but clarified that in this case, those who obtained the information “had been expected, within the capacity of their role, to transfer it to the appropriate officials in order for them to examine it and check its merits.”
The Justice Ministry said on Tuesday it is looking into the allegations of harassment. A Justice Ministry spokesman said the ministry “confirmed that following the receipt of information by our office, the attorney-general has instructed the Civil Service Commission’s disciplinary division to hold a preliminary inquiry regarding the reliability of the information.”
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying the allegations against Eshel were not sexual in nature, as reported by the Post.
“This is not true and the allegations against him have no sexual nature whatsoever,” the statement said.