Letter Alleging Sexual Assault Against Former Senior Netanyahu Aide Resurfaces Amid New Allegations

In the letter, a woman alleges that Gil Sheffer assaulted her during a car ride before becoming Netanyahu's chief of staff in 2012.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gil Sheffer in 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gil Sheffer in 2012. Marc Israel Sellem

Amid an ongoing investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief of staff Gil Sheffer over allegations of sexual assault, older allegations from another woman reemerged on Thursday.

The allegations, contained in a 2012 letter, allege that Sheffer assaulted her during a car ride before becoming Netanyahu's chief of staff the same year.

After Sheffer took office as chief of staff, the woman wrote to the prime minister asking that he not allow Sheffer to hold a position in the public service.

The police carried out an inquiry in which the woman and other witnesses provided testimony. Ultimately, however, the attorney general at the time, Yehuda Weinstein, decided not to open formal criminal investigation because the statute of limitations on Sheffer's alleged acts had lapsed. Netanyahu received the findings of the inquiry. 

"What happened with Gil was in no way an ordinary case of a guy trying to get close to a girl," the woman wrote to the prime minister, according to a report about the contents of the letter on Channel 10. "He cruelly and violently assaulted me, pushed my head forcefully over and over [allegedly against a headrest], closed the door of the car when I tried to get away and ignored my pleading and screams to stop."

The woman claimed that Sheffer's alleged acts caused her pain, left marks on her body and caused her emotional distress that was difficult for her to overcome. "It is your duty and obligation not to lend a hand and provide backing to men who act with such brutality and cruelty against women," she wrote, according to the report. "I ask you to choose the ethical path and that you not allow Gil Sheffer to be in any public position, any position of power."

Despite the police inquiry and the letter, Sheffer remained in his position for more than a year and a half after the letter was sent to the prime minister. The case came to light following Sheffer's July 2013 resignation from his position in the Prime Minister's Office. 

In the more recent case, which has been under investigation over the past month and a half, Sheffer is alleged to have offered a woman who performed at a conference that he attended a ride home to the town where they both lived. The performer alleges that he sat with her in the back seat of his car, touched her against her will and then brought her to an apartment where there were other men present. 

Police have questioned him on these allegations, which were first reported by Channel 2, and he is currently confined to five days of house arrest in connection with the case. Sheffer's lawyer, Gill Friedman, called the allegations baseless. 

At a farewell party for Sheffer at the Prime Minister's Office, Netanyahu had warm words for his departing chief of staff and a video clip was shown in which the prime minister directed a choir of office staff who sang a song in Sheffer's honor. The staff included the cabinet secretary at the time, Avichai Mendelblit, who is now the country's attorney general.

As chief of staff, Sheffer replaced Natan Eshel, who was convicted in disciplinary proceedings of unbecoming conduct and committed to design from the public service after a female employee of the Prime Minister's Office accused him of monitoring her emails and text messages, of physically following her and of taking sexually-oriented pictures of her. 

The allegations were brought to the attention of three senior staffers in the Prime Minister's Office, who informed Attorney General Weinstein. One of the staffers was Yoaz Hendel, the prime minister's director of communications and public diplomacy. 

Eshel denied the allegations and the woman who made them declined to file a formal complaint or to testify against him. He ultimately signed a plea agreement admitting to unbecoming conduct. He resigned and committed not to take up another position in the public service. He remained a close associate of Netanyahu's, however, and conducted government coalition negotiations on behalf of Netanyahu's Likud party. 

For his part, after leaving his position as director of communications in the Prime Minister's Office, Hendel accused the prime minster of trying to minimize the matter. In an interview with Channel 2's "Uvda" program, Hendel linked his decision to report the female staffer's allegations against Eshel and his own departure from the Prime Minister's Office.