Harassed Out of the Knesset: Disgraced MK Does the Right Thing, Eventually

After the sexual harassment accusations against the Habayit Hayehudi lawmaker began to pile up, he was a dead man walking in the corridors of the Knesset.

Yinon Magal sitting at an office in the Knesset, November 5, 2015, with a security guard behind him.
Olivier Fitoussi

Winston Churchill is attributed with saying something that has become a bit of a cliché: Americans always do the right thing, after exhausting all the other possibilities. The resignation from the Knesset of MK Yinon Magal (Habayit Hayehudi) on Monday morning is the right move, the appropriate step at this time – even if it came a bit late, nearly a week after complaints of alleged sexual harassment against him first surfaced on Facebook.

Over these past six days, two more women have echoed the accusations of journalist Racheli Rottner and another woman that Magal sexually harassed them during their time working together at the Walla website. The fourth complaint was reported on Sunday evening by Channel 2 News.

It is reasonable to assume that it will not be the last. The only way for Magal to try and stem this tide, and hope to prevent more victims telling their stories – and avoid a complaint being filed with the police – is to bow his head, accept the verdict and pay the price by removing the MK title that went before his name.

After Gal Sharon quit the Knesset last September, it’s now the turn of Magal to leave the Knesset not very gracefully, and less than a year after the 20th Knesset was sworn in. The first, a Yisrael Beiteinu MK, left of his own free will (as far as is known). The second was forced to leave. Here’s an idea for a casting agent or producer: The two former journalists can present a television show on Channel 20 called “Gal and Magal.” The ratings will be incredible.

Go ahead, laugh, but it’s not funny. For Magal, this is nothing less than a tragedy – personally, professionally and for his family. He is through with politics forever. His future in the media is bleak. No media organization with any self-respect will give him airtime, certainly not in the foreseeable future. His entry into political life was presented to him on a silver platter by Habayit Hayehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett – and has turned into a complete nightmare. The biggest surprise is that it took so long for all the dirt to come out since he was elected to the Knesset last March.

In earlier times, elected officials encountering these troubles would cling to the horns of the altar, or their deerskin leather seats in the Knesset, and refuse to quit – all the while screaming and squealing that they were being sucked dry, framed, that there was a conspiracy against them. In earlier times, MKs would fight in the Knesset House Committee to preserve their parliamentary immunity in light of the indictments against them.

To Magal’s credit, it must be said that he did none of the above. After all, who knows the power of the Internet like he does, given his former job as Walla’s editor-in-chief? Who knows the women he ran into like he does, their independence and strength. He admitted to some of the accusations and apologized, expressed remorse and promised to mend his ways. But he refused to recognize what was clear to everyone else: He was living on borrowed time, condemned to walk the corridors of the Knesset like some kind of zombie.

Whether he understood all this or not, or whether someone else understood it for him, the result was inevitable. In retrospect, his removal from the position of party whip in the Knesset looked pathetic. In retrospect, it is possible that this light slap on the wrist just made another woman sit down nervously at the keyboard and begin to write.