A Question of Trust

Hauser, Hendel and Locker did an important service to the state and to Israeli society in reporting Eshel, but they also embarrassed and tripped up Benjamin Netanyahu, who had appointed them to their positions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has every right to be disappointed by the conduct of the three advisers who told the attorney general that Netanyahu's bureau chief, Natan Eshel, had sexually harassed a bureau employee. The report prompted Eshel's resignation and admission of inappropriate conduct.

Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, Military Secretary Yohanan Locker and Yoaz Hendel, who has since resigned as head of the National Information Directorate, did indeed demonstrate integrity and responsibility. They deserved the praise for acting ethically that was heaped on them by dozens of articles - but that does not mean they acted with appropriate decency toward the person who appointed them.

Emil Salman

Netanyahu chose them because he believed in their capabilities, talents and virtues, and also - there is no point in concealing this - because he believed they would be loyal to him. Or at least that they would update him about a serious crime that took place in his bureau. The positions held by Hauser, Hendel and Locker are public, and it is to be expected that anyone who takes upon himself a commitment of this kind would adopt the high level of ethics they demonstrated, but this does not justify their choice to hide the seriousness of Eshel's activities from the prime minister.

Yes, there is a clause of the Civil Service regulations that states that someone who receives a complaint "shall not look into it but shall transfer it solely to the investigation department of the Civil Service Commission, and shall not provide any information to any other body in the office or outside of it." But with all due respect, it seems that mentioning this clause now is nothing more than a pretext for those who wish to criticize the prime minister's disappointment with the three advisers who reported Eshel.

Netanyahu, it is important to note, is not disappointed with the fact that the advisers regarded Eshel's actions as unacceptable, but only with the fact that they kept him out of the picture. If one assumes that Hauser, Hendel and Locker chose to hide the alleged harassment from the prime minister because they thought he would not take action or, heaven forbid, would whitewash the affair, then the question is how they agreed to work for him in the first place - and how they would have continued to work for him if he had not publicly expressed his great disappointment with them.

On the other hand, if they did not doubt in their hearts that the prime minister would deal with the affair in strict accordance with the law and the Civil Service regulations, then they should have informed him as soon as possible: a moment before, or after, lodging the complaint.

Try to imagine a situation in which the prime minister gives a press conference on a matter not connected with the Eshel affair and is suddenly asked by a reporter to respond to a question about it. Which of you would believe Netanyahu if he were to say that he didn't have the faintest idea what the reporter was talking about? And even if you did believe him, which of you would rely on a prime minister who doesn't even know what is happening in his own bureau?

Remaining loyal to the person who appointed you to a position does not have to mean acting like Richard Nixon's aides did in the Watergate scandal. Rather, it is a kind of commitment to share the good as well as the bad. Not to whitewash, not to lie, not to commit a crime for someone, but to remember that the task you have taken upon yourself involves a double commitment: toward the person who appointed you and toward the state.

Netanyahu is not yet the state, even if he sometimes thinks he is, but he is also not the enemy of the state here. Hauser, Hendel and Locker did an important service to the state and to Israeli society in reporting Eshel, but they also embarrassed and tripped up the person who had appointed them to their positions. In a case like this, in which neither side has faith in the other, it is best for all the parties involved to go their separate ways.