The Natan Eshel affair ended Sunday with an agreement that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau chief, who was accused of sexually harassing an employee identified only as R., and his admission of inappropriate conduct. Netanyahu was sad to see Eshel go, and praised him warmly. But the prime minister conspicuously refrained from praising the three senior members of his bureau who reported the alleged transgressions, sparking a disciplinary inquiry into Eshel's conduct.
Netanyahu's response to the affair has revealed the values he is guided by - and loyalty to the boss tops the list. It's not clear what the "important contribution" that Netanyahu said Eshel made to the government actually was, but it is clear that he was the go-to person for Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu and carried out sensitive political assignments on their behalf.
From Netanyahu's perspective, Eshel's loyalty compensates for his inappropriate conduct and is more praiseworthy than the whistle-blowing of Military Secretary Yohanan Locker, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser and National Information Directorate head Yoaz Hendel, who got the alleged harasser ousted from the heart of the government by doing their civic duty and making sure the law got enforced.
Despite Eshel's high-ranking position and the support he received from Netanyahu, the law enforcement authorities fearlessly did what they had to do. The Civil Service Commission conducted a speedy investigation that concluded that sexual harassment had taken place, even though the victim refused to file a complaint against Eshel or even to submit to questioning. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein praised Locker, Hauser and Hendel for "acting in accordance with the law and taking the steps expected of them as public figures." The initial response of Netanyahu's bureau, that reports about Eshel were "cheap gossip," sounded like a blatant lie.
But Netanyahu doesn't care. He considers maintaining high standards of public service, enforcing the law and responding honestly to reports of wrongdoing to be less important than supporting a loyal associate. For Netanyahu, Eshel's dedication is more important than preserving the dignity of an employee in his office. The bureau chief's departure won't have negative repercussions on the governing of the country, but it did reveal Netanyahu's distorted values.
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