WASHINGTON – Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said in a press statement on Friday 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 ambassador received a phone call from Bret Stephens over half a year after David Keyes entered his role in the Prime Minister's Office regarding the conduct attributed to Keyes before he joined the office," read a statement.
"Information about the conversation was not provided to the Prime Minister's Office. If Stephens or anyone else had given the ambassador information about sexual assault or any other criminal act committed against women by anybody in the Prime Minister's Office, whether they occurred before the person entered the position or after, he would have immediately informed the Prime Minister's Office."
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 by at least 14 women.
One woman told the Times of Israel that Keyes had sexually harassed her during the time he was already working at the Prime Minister’s Office. All the other allegations have to do with events that took place before he began working for Netanyahu.
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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, whose writing is usually supportive of Israel, was working as a senior opinion writer for the Wall Street Journal at the time, and according to the report, he barred Keyes from visiting the offices of that paper’s editorial section because of Keyes’ behavior towards female staffers.
Stephens told the NYT he personally chided Keyes, calling him a "disgrace to men" and "a disgrace as a Jew."
Keyes spoke of the allegations, saying: “In light of the false and misleading accusations against me and in order not to distract from the important work of the Prime Minister, I have asked to take time off to clear my name. I am fully confident that the truth will come out."