Racheli Rottner, a female journalist who worked for the Walla news website, wrote a post on her Facebook page Tuesday morning in which she said Knesset member Yinon Magal (Habayit Hayehudi) harassed her at a goodbye party in his honor on his departure from the website, in advance of his run for the Knesset in last March’s election.
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Following her allegations, another female Walla employee, Or Shukrun, came forward with similar claims against Magal. In addition, Haaretz has obtained the testimony of other women who claim to have been sexually harassed by Magal and a report by someone at the party who alleged that Magal smoked drugs in front of those assembled, but did not force himself physically on the women present against their will.
In her accusations, Rottner wrote that Magal, who was editor-in-chief of the Walla news site, told her: “Now I can tell you, because I’m no longer your boss, but the entire time that we worked together, I was horny for you. Looking at you and thinking about your tits and your ass.” A short time after Rottner wrote the post, Magal confirmed that he had made the statements - and apologized.
Rottner also wrote that she knows of similar cases involving Magal and other women, including one case that included “unwanted physical touching.”
Haaretz asked Magal for a detailed response to the accusations, but he declined.
First, I would like to apologize,” wrote Magal on Facebook shortly after Rottner wrote her first post. “There are things that were said between friends before I became a member of Knesset that I would not repeat today, and I ask for forgiveness from anyone who was hurt. But I would expect a friend who I hurt to tell me that and not to turn to shaming on the social networks.”
For her part, Shukrun said she does not accept any apology from Magal, adding that she decided to go public with her allegations despite feelings of embarrassment. "A colleague who caresses my behind more than once despite my requests that he stop, who asks me if I want to join him in a restroom stall and other questions that are not subject to more than one interpretation, has brought the shaming that he has experienced on himself," Shukrun wrote on Facebook.
In her post, Rottner described on Facebook how Magal would allegedly blurt out comments of a sexual nature at times in conversations with her while she worked for him. “Here and there Yinon would tell me something like ‘you need to dress sexier for your programs, so you look more like a librarian from a porno film,’ [but] that didn’t really bother me,” she wrote. That is what the badly behaved Magal was like, always thinking how to make things on the website sexier, she claimed, calling him macho.
Then Rottner recounted her conversation with Magal the day he left Walla, saying he sat near her on a sofa during his farewell party, and, she added, “I didn’t see it coming. ‘Tell me,’ he whispered to me, ‘Did you also feel the tension between us all this time we worked together?’ ‘Tension? No’ .... ‘Strange, I always felt a sort of sexual tension between us,’” she wrote.
Rottner said she was not trying to harm Magal for political reasons, but added that after this incident, she discovered other similar occurrences between Magal and other women - and realized it was not a one-time thing. She said while she did not feel like a victim in this case, and was not traumatized, because such things bother her less, there were other women who were definitely hurt - so she decided to recount “her small story with him, and take it yourselves to wherever you want,” she wrote.
Following her allegations, the leader of Magal’s Habayit Hayehudi party, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, asked for a meeting with the Knesset member to discuss the matter one-on-one. The opposition Meretz party called on Bennett to have Magal suspended from the Knesset until the allegations against him are clarified.
Rottner and Shukrun will also be asked to provide testimony to the police, senior police sources said, in an effort to determine whether Magal's alleged behavior amounted to criminal violations. Any such proceedings would be subject to the approval of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.