Natan Eshel, Prime Minister Netanyahu's former bureau chief, can legally hold any position outside the civil service, the Prime Minister's Office legal advisor Shlomit Barnea-Farago determined. Thus, sources in the PMO said, Eshel could have been appointed a member of the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition negotiation team, despite his plea agreement.
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Eshel left his post in the PMO in disgrace in March amid accusations of sexual harassment. After admitting to misconduct, he was severely reprimanded by the Civil Service Commission and prohibited from returning to government service.
Earlier on Monday, Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich exposed that Eshel contacted Barnea-Farago on the behalf of the prime minister asking her to determine whether he could head the negotiation team. Barnea-Farago found that according to the plea agreement there was no legal restriction barring Eshel from holding the position, though she suggested that further consult with the Civil Service Commission.
Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman decided Monday on the team that will hold the coalition negotiations on behalf of their parties. The team will include Netanyahu's close advisors Isaac Molho and David Shomron, as well as Moshe Leon, who served as PMO director-general under Netanyahu. Attorney Yoav Mani, who was questioned in relation to one of Lieberman's legal affairs will also serve on the team.
The news of the team's composition comes in wake of a political storm over the possible inclusion of Eshel in the talks. Likud sources, as also Eshel himself, denied he had been tapped to lead the negotiations. According to sources in the Likud, Eshel was asked to assist in the negotiations in an unofficial capacity due to his experience and close relationship with the prime minister.
Despite these claims, Yacimovich posted on her Facebook page an email written by Eshel two months ago to the legal adviser of the Prime Minister's Office, which states that he was asked to head the coalition talks.