The possible return to public life of Nathan Eshel,
Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief of staff who was dismissed over sexual harassment
allegations, stirred great upheaval in recent days, culminating in The Israel Women's Network approaching the prime minister and the attorney general on Tuesday, demanding that Eshel be immediately barred from assuming any public or diplomatic office, in the current administration or in the future.
After it was published
that Netanyahu may appoint Eshel to run coalitional negotiations for the newly elected 19th Knesset,
many opposed Eshel's return to the political arena, seeing as according to a plea bargain agreed between his attorneys and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Eshel agreed not to seek another position in the civil service.
The opposition to Eshel's return – consisting of an online petition and a heated debate on various media outlets – resulted in the former PM chief of staff's lashing out at his opponents, as he told Ynet Tuesday that his case was was "blown out of proportion" and that "Apparently, women have no problem lying."
Tamar Zandberg, whom Eshel threatened to sue after she delivered a letter to the attorney general last week, asking him to step in and prevent Eshel's involvement in coalitional negotiations, told Ynet Tuesday that this is "Someone who was caught lying twice in the past couple of days."
Zandberg, about to serve as a member of the 19th Knesset, added: "If I were him, I would keep quiet and leave public life, as was publicly asked."
In her letter to the AG last week, Zandberg stressed that should Netnayhu rehire Eshel, it will be a "complete disregard to the safety of women and the severity of Eshel's conduct… His return… permits violence against women and sends out a message that transgressions of this kind are not severe enough to enforce."
Criticism was also cast at Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu,
as he was the one behind Esehl's potential rehiring. Merav Michaeli, a Labor
member who is about to serve as an MK once the Knesset is sworn in, wrote on her Facebook page: "Let's make this clear – Natan Eshel is not the problem. He was permanently expelled from public service for harassment. The problem is Netanyahu."
Michaeli reiterated that Netanyahu "Is the man who encourages oppression and humiliation of women by systematically disregarding the attorney general's decision; this is the man who encourages women's oppression by keeping disturbingly silent
in the face of his crony Eshel ('women have no problem lying'). Eshel is the symptom. Netanyahu is the problem. Netanyahu might keep his mouth shut, but we definitely won't."
Addressing the controversial quote, Eshel said Tuesday that he did not think that all women were liars. The former PM chief of staff stressed that in saying "women have no problem lying," he only referred to the women who "have been attacking him in the past few days, while weaving lies about things that never happened."
Eshel's statement added that he "respects any honest person, men and women alike."
The Israel Women's Network executive director Galit Deshe told Ynet that "We see the prime minister, the attorney general and the civil service commissioner as responsible for the protection of the rule of the law, of morality and of women's right to safety, in the workplace and outside it. Bringing Natan Eshel back in this revolving door, over and over again, directly hinders women's safety and the State's moral standards.
"Mr. Eshel claims to have been subjected to injustice and that he was not convicted of what he is accused. It is however only fitting that someone who admitted
to improper behavior… would understand that he no longer belongs in any public move that has any effect on the country's agenda."
According to The Association of Rape Crisis Centers
in Israel, "Natan Eshel continues to harm women. It is impossible that he would return to public office." A representative of the center stressed that Eshel abused his power while in office and "should not assume an influential position as if nothing happened."
Shula Keshet, executive director of the Achoti women's movement, added that "It is well known that Eshel's deal stipulated that he be permanently banned from public activity."
his post as PM chief of staff on March, after admitting in a plea bargain to improper behavior toward an employee in the Prime Minister's Office.
Omri Efraim contributed to this report
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop