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'Overly involved.' Eshel Photo: Tal Shahar
'Overly involved.' Eshel Photo: Tal Shahar
 
 

PM's bureau chief Eshel to resign amid sex scandal

Eshel to quit after signing plea bargain under which he admits to taking 'inappropriate' photos of female staffer, accessing her computer

Aviad Glickman
Published: 02.19.12, 14:53 / Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau chief Natan Eshel, who was accused of harassing a female staffer, will leave his post by March 1 after signing a plea bargain under which he will admit to charges of "misconduct," the Justice Ministry announced Sunday.

 

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According to a plea bargain agreed between Eshel's attorneys and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Eshel will admit to charges of damaging civil service discipline and conduct unbecoming a civil servant.

 

Under the agreement, Eshel will not seek another position within the civil service and admit he took "inappropriate" photos of the woman - known only as 'R' - and accessed her computer without her knowledge.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement in response in which he praised Eshel's "dedicated work" along the years and his "important contribution to the successful work of the Israeli government." He did not mention the three officials who first made the complaint against Eshel.

 

The statement said Netanyahu asked Gil Sheffer to replace Eshel as his bureau chief. Sheffer is considered a close associate of Netanyahu's wife Sara and has previously served in other capacities in the prime minister's bureau.

 

Details of the affair were initially disclosed to the AG by Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, Military Secretary Maj.-Gen Yohanan Locker and National Information Directorate chief Yoaz Handel. Bureau manager Gil Shefer was apparently also aware of the details of the affair.

 

The female staffer did not cooperate with investigators, who collected testimonies from 28 people. Eshel was interrogated under warning.

 

Weinstein ordered the investigation due to suspicions that Eshel harassed and intruded on the woman's privacy.

 

Eshel issued a statement saying "for the past month I have been under a terrible attack that has turned my life and my family's life into an unbearable nightmare. My attorneys presented a plea bargain which (exonerates) me of allegations of indecent acts and/or photos and sexual harassment. Now it is clear to everyone that the affair had no sexual aspect to it.

 

"In retrospect, it is clear to me that I was dragged into being excessively involved in the (female) employee's affairs. I should have avoided it," he said.

 

The employee R stated: "I had one goal and that was not to testify. I didn't share any details. As soon as the story was leaked I insisted on not testifying and I'm very pleased with the fact that senior law enforcement officials didn't compel me to do anything, my goal was achieved."

 

R then stressed that she was not interested in the results of the investigation. People close to R said that "as soon as the story was out it was clear to R that it would end this way." They then added "she doesn't have anything against anyone not even Eshel himself and she just wants to get back to work and to peace and quiet as soon as possible."

 

 

 

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