Netanyahu's Bureau Chief to Step Down Over Sexual Assault Claims

The allegations relate to an incident that occurred 15 years ago, and Sheffer and the bureau deny they are related to his planned resignation.

The director of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau, Gil Sheffer, is expected to resign this month.

The Channel 2 television station reported on Wednesday night that the background for Sheffer's planned departure is a recent complaint by a woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her 15 years ago.

Despite Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's decision not to press charges against him because of a statute of limitations, Sheffer, in a surprise move, recently told the prime minister and the civil service commissioner he would leave his post by the end of July.

Moshe Cohen, the spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, added to the TV report, saying that in February 2012, a woman had lodged a complaint against Sheffer, accusing him of sexually assaulting her 15 years ago, while they were in a car together. The complaint was made just as Sheffer was about to be appointed bureau chief. At the time, he was the acting chief following the dismissal of his predecessor, Natan Eshel, on charges of sexually harassing an employee of the Prime Minister’s Bureau.

Following the complaint, the Weinstein instructed the police to open a criminal inquiry. Ministry of Justice officials said the inquiry involved gathering testimony from the woman and other witnesses. Sheffer was also questioned and said he did not act with violence against the complainant.

After consultations with the head of the police's Investigationsand Intelligence Division, Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich, and the State Prosecutors Office, Weinstein decided not to proceed with criminal charges and to desist from further investigation. Ministry officials said the main reason for his decision was that a statute of limitations applied to the case.

Weinstein updated Netanyahu and handed over the results of the investigation prior the prime minister's decision on Sheffer’s appointment. According to Ministry officials, he told Netanyahu there was "no legal impediment to the appointment of Sheffer as bureau chief."

The issue cropped up again a few months ago, when the woman again appealed to the attorney general. Weinstein instructed the police to gather more information based on the woman’s testimony. He was presented with the new information but again decided not to prosecute Sheffer. Netanyahu was again updated with regard to the information and the attorney general’s decision.

At the same time, Weinstein passed the new information to the Civil Service Commission. After examining the evidence, the commissioner decided not to hold a disciplinary hearing based on the fact that Sheffer was not a civil servant at the time of the alleged assault. As the commission was examining the evidence, Sheffer informed the commissioner he would be leave his post by the end of July. Sheffer also informed the Prime Minister of his decision.

The Prime Minister’s Bureau confirmed that Sheffer announced his decision to leave but adamantly denied the background for the decision was the woman’s allegations. In contrast to an announcement by the Ministry of Justice, the Prime Minister’s bureau announced Sheffer would leave "within a few months, as planned." The bureau insisted Sheffer had told Netanyahu of his intentions to leave following the recent elections. He is leaving after four years, "unrelated to the false allegations concerning events in 1998," said officials in the Prime Minister’s bureau. "Sheffer was a dedicated and professional bureau chief who enjoyed the Prime Minister’s complete trust," they said. 

Sheffer called the woman's complaints "completely unfounded allegations relating to events that took place 15 years ago, at a time when I was unmarried." He claimed that he was found to be telling the truth in three polygraph tests, conducted by the security services, the police and a private investigator that he commissioned. "A year and a half ago, the attorney general determined that there was no obstacle to my appointment," he said.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's former chief of staff Gil Sheffer.
Moti Kimchi