Israel Police to Investigate Sexual Harrassment Charges Against MK

Yinon Magal apologizes for things he said to colleague, insisting they were said ‘between friends.’

MK Yinon Magal speaking at an outdoor podium at the abandoned settlement of Sa-Nur in the West Bank, July 21, 2015.
Gil Cohen-Magen

The police set up a special team Tuesday to investigate sexual harassment charges against MK Yinon Magal (Habayit Hayehudi). According to senior police officials, the two women journalists at the news site Walla, who said he harassed them at a farewell party for him, will be called on to give testimony.

The police will summon the women, Raheli Rottner and Or Shukrun, co-workers at the Walla news site where Magal was editor-in-chief before becoming an MK, after receiving authorization from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Magal allegedly harassed other women at the party and tried to kiss some of them against their will.

Habayit Hayehudi chairman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called in Magal for a private meeting last night.

Rottner leveled her accusations against Magal on her Facebook page, to which Magal responded with an apology on his Facebook page. Shukrun then came forward with similar claims against Magal.

MK Magal has declined requests from Haaretz for a comment on the other women’s accusations.

In response to Magal’s apology, Shukrun accused Magal on her Facebook page of touching her behind on more than one occasion over her objections, and said his apology was not accepted.

Some of the women at the farewell party left upset, according to others who were present. A person at the party told Haaretz that one of the women who left told him later that Magal had tried to French kiss her.

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 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.”

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.”

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel called on Magal to suspend himself from the Knesset until the police investigation is completed. According to the association’s director Orit Sulitzeanu, “Magal claims that what was said, as noted on Facebook, were said between friends, and that he would not repeat them today. Magal does not understand that his remarks do not pass the threshold of normative behavior expected of a director or future MK.”

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.

Following her allegations, Bennett asked for a meeting with the MK 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.

The police will ask Rottner and Shukrun to provide testimony, senior police sources said, to determine if Magal’s alleged behavior constituted criminal violations.