Israeli Lawmaker Demands Netanyahu Spokesman Keyes and Envoy Dermer's Conduct Be Checked

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David Keyes (right) and Ron Dermer
David Keyes (right) and Ron DermerCredit: GPO and PERRY BINDELGLASS
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Knesset Member Michal Rozin (Meretz) appealed to Israel's Civil Service Commissioner Saturday requesting that the commissioner urgenly look into accusations of sexual misconduct leveled at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesperson, David Keyes.

She also requested that the commissioner look into the conduct of Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, who knew about Keyes' conduct and chose not to disclose what he was aware of.

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz)Credit: Yitzhak Harari/Knesset spokesman's office

"Given the serious concern of serial behavior by a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office and the disregard of testimonies to this effect by several public officials, I am requesting that you immediately look into the issue of alleged sexual harassment as well as into the conduct of Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and other people related to the issue," Rozin wrote in her letter.

>> Read more: Israeli Ambassador Dermer, who knews about Netanyahu spokesman Keyes' misconduct, says he didn't inform PM In first, woman accuses Netanyahu spokesman of 'aggressive, sexual advances' while working for PM 

In the letter, the lawmaker detailed the allegations, saying that "recently, 14 women have testified that Keyes sexually assaulted them, some during his current tenure. In 2013, the directors of a think tank in Washington intervened after receiving two complaints from women. In addition, journalist Bret Stephens told Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer about Keyes' behavior, telling him he was 'a danger to women.'"

Rozin added that the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law and the Civil Service Regulations impose on employers an obligation to address sexual harassment.

The appointment of the new Civil Service comissioner to whom MK Rozin addressed her letter, Daniel Hershkowitz, was confirmed this week.

In a press statement on Friday, Dermer said that he did not inform Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the conversation he had with journalist Bret Stephens in 2016 regarding the conduct of Netanyahu's spokesperson, David Keyes, toward women.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Stephens, the paper’s senior columnist and editor, warned Dermer about Keyes’ alleged misconduct toward women in November 2016, almost two years ago.

Keyes was already working for Netanyahu at the time, and he left his position only this week, following the publication of allegations made against him.

The NYT report states that in early November 2016, “after an Israeli reporter began inquiring about Mr. Keyes, Mr. Stephens said he contacted Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, warning him that Mr. Keyes posed a risk to women in Israeli government offices.”

Stephens told the NYT he personally chided Keyes, calling him a "disgrace to men" and "a disgrace as a Jew."

MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) responded to the allegations against Keyes and Dermer as well, saying: "Dermer listen up: The law for the prevention of sexual harassment passed in Israel in 1998. It's a criminal act, and it's of course also an ugly act of exploitation and harm against women. But since his boss, Prime Minister Netanyahu, backed a man who sexually harassed [referring to Netanyahu's former right-hand man Natan Eshel, who resigned over a sexual harassment scandal], Dermer sees no problem appointing another man like that."

Michal Gera Margaliot, managing director of the Israel Women's Network, also spoke out about the accusations: "David Keyes' story appears to be a huge scandal. It's not only that dozens of complaints of sexual abuse have accumulated in a short time, while the prime minister's office remains silent. But it turns out that it's been known for years who the man is and what his exploits are, and yet he remained in his job. Keyes must go home, and a public statement is required from the prime minister saying that he and his government are committed to maintaining a safe working space for all government employees."

An initial claim of a 2013 sexual assault by New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar went public on Tuesday. Salazar’s claim was followed with a tweet by Wall Street journalist Shayndi Raice, published on Wednesday, describing Keyes as a “predator” and his “mistreatment of women” as “an open secret.”

The website Times of Israel reported Wednesday that 10 additional women had come forward with claims against Keyes. The allegations, according to the report, “include one detailed accusation of physically aggressive behavior by Keyes, claims of overly aggressive advances by him, and incidents of inappropriate behavior.” The website also said it had obtained copies of two letters of apology written by Keyes to women in which he expressed regret “for being less than gentlemanly.”

In response, Keyes told the Times of Israel that “all of the accusations are deeply misleading and many of them are categorically false.” 

The report said that Keyes’ sexual misbehavior with women was so well-known that he was asked to stay away from certain offices during the years he worked as a political activist in the U.S. Between 2012 and 2015, Keyes served as the executive director of Advancing Human Rights, before being named to his current post by Netanyahu. 

The report quoted former co-workers as describing continual complaints of unwanted and “unseemly” advances towards women by Keyes, as well as other inappropriate behavior such as screening suggestive videos in the office. The report said that Keyes had been warned by human resources managers about his behavior. 

In one of the offices, a woman interviewed by Times of Israel said, “There was an unofficial policy that he cannot be alone with interns.”

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