Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Gil Sheffer, is the previously unidentified confidant of the prime minister under investigation over the past month and a half on suspicion of sexual assault.
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A similar complaint filed against Sheffer in the past was not pursued due to a statute of limitations.
Sheffer, who continues to have close ties with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, was questioned under caution on Tuesday, then put under house arrest for five days. He was also recently questioned about the so-called Prime Minister’s Residence case, in which Sara Netanyahu is also a suspect.
A report Wednesday on Channel 2 said Sheffer offered a ride home to a woman who performed at a conference he had attended. It said the woman sat next to him in the back seat of the car, and he plied her with alcohol against her will and touched her.
He allegedly also took her to an apartment where there were other men, and tried to kiss her against her will and refused to allow her to leave, Channel 2 reported. Sheffer’s attorney denied the allegations.
Sources close to Sheffer dismissed the case and claimed that former senior staffers were taking advantage of an opportunity to lash out at him. They speculate that Natan Eshel, Sheffer’s predecessor ousted for alleged sexual harassment of an employee, may be behind the latest complaint against Sheffer, due to a dispute between them.
Eshel said yesterday he did not know the woman and had nothing to do with Sheffer or the complaint against him.
Sheffer’s confidants said further that Sheffer knew the artist and introduced her to celebrities in the Haredi entertainment world, and that “he tried to help her advance her career.” Sheffer confirms he drove the woman home but denies molesting her.
These sources also claim the aim of the investigation is to get Sheffer’s support in the case against the Prime Minister’s Residence and other investigations covering the period in which he served.
The woman who complained provided a detailed account to police, in which she makes clear that she was a victim of sexual harassment and confinement.
A complaint against Sheffer for sexual assault has been lodged in the past. Just ahead of his appointment as chief of staff, a woman complained in February 2012 that he had sexually assaulted her five years earlier inside a vehicle.
Sheffer was then the acting chief of staff, after Eshel was ousted for sexually harassing an employee at the Prime Minister’s Bureau. Then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided not to initiate criminal proceedings against Sheffer, citing a statute of limitations.
In 2013, the complainant again turned to Weinstein and presented him with further evidence against Sheffer. The attorney general briefed Netanyahu on the findings and passed the material along to the civil service commissioner. The commissioner decided against launching proceedings against Sheffer since the allegations did not take place while the latter was a civil servant.
The complainant wrote to Netanyahu and asked him not to appoint Sheffer as chief of staff. “He attacked me brutally and violently, banged my head again and again, closed the car door when I tried to flee and ignored my pleas and shouts that he stop,” she wrote.
She also said Sheffer’s brutal acts left marks on her body and caused her pain and mental anguish. “It is your duty and obligation not to give your backing to men who treat women with such cruelty and savagery,” she wrote to Netanyahu.
Despite this, Sheffer was appointed and remained in his post for more than 18 months after the letter had been received. The story came to light only in July 2013, at the same time Sheffer surprisingly announced he was leaving his post.
Netanyahu’s aides vehemently denied that his depature was due to the complaint filed against him.