Netanyahu's Shameful Silence on the Eshel Affair

The Prime Minister did not speak in support of the three public servants in his bureau who took the right, moral and legal action in reporting alleged sexual harassment of a female employee to the Attorney General.

Natan Eshel, who agreed on Sunday to resign as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief, is the center of a shameful, embarrassing and undignified chapter in the most conflict-ridden Prime Minister’s Bureau in the past decade.

Still with us, however, and apparently for a long time ahead, is Netanyahu, who even Sunday could not utter a single world of support for three courageous and decent public servants in his bureau who took the right, moral and legal action in bringing their colleague’s alleged sexual harassment of a female employee to the attention of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Natan Eshel

The warm words of praise were reserved for the alleged harasser, who was rebuked and sent into retirement after he admitted to inappropriate conduct.

The men who complained − Zvi Hauser, the cabinet secretary; Yoaz Hendel, head of the National Information Directorate; and Yohanan Locker, Netanyahu’s military secretary − are mentioned in a cool, almost forced aside as the individuals whom the attorney general said acted according to the law.

While the affair was at its height, Netanyahu promised he would speak out when it was over. The public is still waiting to hear the moral position of the prime minister on what happened a few meters from his office.

It is impossible to know what position Eshel will fill, if any, after he recovers from this blow. He was Netanyahu’s confidante for many years, his intrigue-maker, executor, hangman and chief avenger. He was also Sara Netanyahu’s liaison and servant.

Even without Eshel, the roller coaster that is the Prime Minister’s Bureau will continue on its endless, tortured ride.

Locker is in any case on the way to his next post, and several politicians agree that Hauser and Hendel will get clobbered. The question is when ‏(clearly not right away; that would look bad‏) and how. Hendel already hardly exists. Hauser has been greatly weakened. Their life expectancy at the bureau is unlikely to be long.

On their way out, they can wear with pride the medal of honor they were given by Weinstein, who in any case will not be remembered as acting courageously at the beginning of the affair.

The one who gets the best deal out of this situation is office director Gil Shefer, who will be replacing Eshel as bureau chief, at least for now.

This was a natural appointment for a number of reasons. First, Shefer is the only senior bureau official who did not complain about Eshel’s actions and told the Civil Service he saw nothing. Second, he is very close to Sara Netanyahu. Third, he has worked with the Netanyahus since the beginning of the prime ministerial term. Fourth, he is accepted by the other employees. And fifth: Like Eshel, he wears a skullcap and is a former National Religious Party member.

That is just Netanyahu’s cup of tea.