Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked his former bureau chief Natan Eshel for his “dedication,” hours after the latter resigned from public service after being embroiled in an alleged sexual harassment scandal.
In a message from the Prime Minister’s Bureau, Eshel was praised for his “important contributions to the successful work of the government of Israel.”
Netanyahu also announced that Gil Shefer, the director of the Prime Minister’s Bureau, would take Eshel’s place temporarily in order to maintain its continuous operation.
Eshel is suspected of harassing R., who works for him in Netanyahu's bureau. Eshel allegedly followed her, searched her private emails and snapped photos of her of a sexual nature.
The Civil Service Commission has collected at least 16 testimonies from various individuals, some of which seem to support the allegations against Eshel in a way that cannot be ignored, sources involved in the investigation say.
R. still refuses to testify, let alone file a complaint against Eshel. Weinstein will have to make a decision about how to pursue the case if R. does not come forward.
On Sunday, an agreement was reached in Eshel's case, which stipulates that Netanyahu's bureau chief will resign by March 1, and will commit to never entering civil service in the future.
Eshel, who is charged with behavior unfettering a civil servant and breaking civil service discipline, will also be severely reprimanded.
The deal also indicates that Eshel is to admit that he had nurtured an excessively intimate relationship with R., a PMO worker, one unbefitting and unacceptable between a superior and a subordinate in the civil service.
Netanyahu's bureau chief will also admit that this relationship included a injury to both R. and her privacy through an unauthorized use of her computer and the transference of her personal information to other PMO officials, one not prompted by any professional motivation.
In addition, Eshel will admit to taking unacceptable pictures of R. in various events.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein indicated that the Eshel's punishment and removal from public service represent an ethical message to all civil servants, including top officials, that actions such as those exposed in the inquiry will not be tolerated.
In response to the plea bargain, Esehl issued a statement, saying that "for the last month I have been under a terrible attack and in the middle of a storm that has turned my life and my family's life to an unbearable nightmare."
"In the last few days my attorneys presented to me a pleas bargain that lifts the cloud of indecent acts and/or pictures and sexual harassment off of my life once and for all, and puts an end to the devil's dance around me," he added, saying: "Now it is clear that the interaction did not have a sexual nature."
The statement added that, "in retrospect, it is clear to me that I was dragged into a too high a level of awareness in the affairs of the office's employee and that I should have avoided that."
"With the removal of the said cloud, and with consideration to my age, health, and my desire to lighten the burden of my family, and since I cannot bear the heavy financial burden of clearing my name, I have decided, after consulting my wife and children, to accept the deal, to admit a minor disciplinary offence, retire from my position, and go on with my life," Eshel concluded.
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