The Three Musketeers in Netanyahu's Office

The senior officials in Netanyahu's bureau who relayed to the Attorney General information about the alleged harassment were doing their jobs regardless of any power struggles within the PMO.

The IDF Attache in Washington, Major General Gadi Shamni, was recently in Israel in order to take part in the visit of General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. When Dempsey met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Shamni had a brief opportunity to see Netanyahu's military secretary, Major General Yohanan Locker. Evidently, Shamni did not know at the time that Locker was going through an experience not unlike one that Shamni himself experienced in the summer of 2006, when he served as military secretary to Ehud Olmert.

Locker is one of the three musketeers in Netanyahu's bureau who two weeks ago saw fit to bring to the attention of the State's Attorney General the shreds of information they had about the behavior of bureau chief Natan Eshel concerning one of the female employees, now known as 'R.' Shamni, it will be recalled, was the individual at whose direction a report was submitted to the police in regard to a complaint issued by H., a female officer in the military secretariat, who alleged that Minister Haim Ramon forced on her an invasive kiss.

Benajmin Netanyahu - Tomer Appelbaum - 26012012
Tomer Appelbaum

The two generals, in the two affairs, acted as expected - as officers, as citizens, as public servants; this is the only proper course of action. Locker's two colleagues, attorney Zvi Hauser – who as a jurist well understands his legal obligation when confronting information such as this – and Yoaz Hendel, acted in similar fashion. All three were appointed to their jobs by Netanyahu, but are not his personal aides. Rather, they hold state positions – as military secretary and as cabinet secretary (who was also the acting director-general of the Prime Minister's Office until the arrival of attorney Harel Locker, who is the general's brother).

The working relationships in the PMO or in the Olmert administration, affectionate or hostile, are not germane to the matter at hand. It is incumbent on any official to report any suspicion of wrongdoing, and those who expose the affair must not talk about it with anyone else, not even the Prime Minister, for fear of disrupting the investigation. In the most practical sense, all of them are men with reputations and aspirations that they have no interest in sacrificing on the altar of whitewashing.

The final section of the communiqué issued by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, issued last night by Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen, is intended to underscore this message: "We seek to clarify that given the circumstances of this matter, it was expected that anyone into whose possession this information came, in the framework of his position, would be expected to pass it on to the authorized bodies, to familiarize themselves and investigate the circumstances, for the purpose of study and analysis of the information, to see if it is of substance." In essence, this is Weinstein's modest commendation of the three officials, in which he also offered encouragement to others who might find themselves in a similar situation.

All of this was phrased in a positive light, in parallel with which the inquiry is probing the negative aspects of the case. Obviously, it is required to investigate, but the working assumption in the PMO is that there is no damning evidence (one source hastened to describe the case as "idle chatter"). A thick hint to this could be detected by virtue of the inquiry being pursued along disciplinary lines, not along criminal lines, as evident by the fact that the inquiry has been turned over to the investigatory unit of the Civil Service Commission and not to the Israel Police's Investigations and Intelligence Division. While criminal findings arising from the Civil Service inquiry, and in other cases that were investigated by the State Comptroller, are typically submitted to the attorney general and by him to the police for investigation, Weinstein's decision to have the Civil Service look into the matter, as opposed to the police, attests to the weakness of the material, at least at this stage.

IDF officer H. was at first uncertain about filing a complaint against the minister whom she said attacked her (and whose identity was unknown to Shamni when he submitted the information to Yohanan Danino, at the time the head of the Investigations and Intelligence Division, and now the Chief of Police). In the same vein, the inquiry into the matter of R., the female PMO employee, was initiated without any complaint submitted by her. It is possible that the current inquiry will conclude in the same way, but one of the tasks of investigators in this type of situation is to ascertain that the choice not to complain derives from free will and not from pressures, threats or enticements.

Sources in the Justice Ministry refused on Wednesday to say if Natan Eshel had been asked to use his accumulated vacation days so that his presence in the PMO would not interfere with the inquiry; however, his absence from the bureau ever since the inquiry became public knowledge hints that in order to understand the intentions of the attorney general, Eshel requires no special telepathic skill or access to Weinstein's email account.