Eshel resigns, PM names new chief of staff (JERUSALEM POST) By JOANNA PARASZCZUK AND HERB KEINON 02/20/12)
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday named Gil Sheffer as his
temporary chief of staff, replacing Natan Eshel who will leave his
post at the end of month after signing a plea bargain admitting
misconduct toward a young female staffer.
Sheffer is currently in charge of the prime minister’s schedule and,
like Eshel, is considered close to the Netanyahu family.
Netanyahu issued a statement thanking Eshel for his “dedicated and
good” service, and his “important contribution” to the government. He
said he appointed Sheffer to ensure “continuity” inside the Prime
The appointment of Sheffer came just hours after the Civil Service
Commission concluded its investigation into allegations that Eshel
harassed a female staffer, known only as R., and invaded her privacy.
During the investigation, which began last month, the commission
questioned 28 witnesses.
Eshel was questioned under caution.
A Justice Ministry spokesman said that the investigation found
evidence of misconduct by Eshel and that the attorney-general and the
Civil Service Commission had agreed to approve the terms of a plea
bargain with Eshel’s attorney, Jacob Weinroth.
Under the terms of the plea bargain, Eshel will resign from his post
on March 1, and will agree not to return to the civil service.
Eshel admitted offenses of breaching civil service discipline and of
conduct unbecoming to a civil service employee. He agreed to accept a
punishment consisting of a severe reprimand for his conduct.
“The plea bargain reflects Mr. Eshel’s acceptance of his
responsibility, and has resulted in an appropriate outcome – the
termination of Mr. Eshel’s employment in the civil service,” the
Justice Ministry spokesman said.
The Justice Ministry also said the agreement “respected R.’s wishes
not to be involved in legal proceedings,” noting that R. still
refused to cooperate with the investigation, although investigators
and others had tried to persuade her to testify.
R. is continuing to work inside the Prime Minister’s Office.
In a letter to Weinstein last month, R.’s attorney, Harel Arnon, had
asked that his client not be compelled to testify and said that R.
wanted to remain anonymous.
“Our client’s right, the right of everybody, is to decide
autonomously if she feels harmed by someone’s behavior and if she
wants to share those feelings with others,” Harel told Weinstein.
According to the complaint filed to the Civil Service Disciplinary
Tribunal, which Eshel will admit to, he formed a close relationship
with R. that was both inappropriate and unacceptable because of his
superior civil service rank.
This included intruding on R.’s privacy by logging onto her computer
without her permission, and by giving personal and private
information about R. to various people in the Prime Minister’s Office
without any professional reason for him to do so. Eshel also intruded
on R.’s privacy, using photographs of her taken at social events.
The Justice Ministry spokesman said that the Civil Service Commission
transferred the investigation’s findings and an opinion from the head
of the Civil Service’s disciplinary branch to the attorney-general,
“Mr. Eshel’s removal from the civil service and his punishment are a
message to all state employees, including senior officials, which is
that actions such as those uncovered during this investigation are
not to be ignored,” the Justice Ministry said.
The ministry also said that those who first brought the suspicions
against Eshel to the attorney- general’s attention had acted
The allegations were brought to the attention of the attorney-general
by cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser, communications director Yoaz Hendel
and military attaché Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker.
“The attorney-general wishes to reemphasize that in a situation where
a senior and powerful employee is disturbing a subordinate who is too
afraid to complain, then civil service integrity requires that civil
servants bring the information to the appropriate authorities,” the
Justice Ministry said.
Eshel released a statement through his lawyers – Weinroth, Rachel
Toren and Yael Dolev – saying that for a month he has been at the
center of a storm that has turned his life, and the life of his
family, into a nightmare.
He said the agreement presented him by his lawyers removed suspicion
that he committed indecent acts or sexual harassment.
“It is now clear to everyone that there was not a sexual aspect to
this affair,” he said.
Eshel added that – after consulting with his lawyers, he decided to
admit to “light disciplinary infractions,” quit his position,
and “continue with my life” because the sexual harassment “cloud” was
removed, and because of his health, age (he was born in 1947) and the
fact that a heavy financial burden that would be placed on him to
completely clear his name.
R.’s attorneys, Arnon and Yitzhak Bam, said that R. did not want to
respond to the outcome of the investigation.
“R. wants to return to her normal routine and to retain her privacy,”
the lawyers said, asking that the media respect her wishes.
The lawyers added that there would be no further response from
R. “Any other information from alleged ‘sources close to R.’ are
baseless,” they said. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/20/12)
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