Time to Get Rid of Eshel

The prime minister's former bureau chief confessed he acted unacceptably. Instead of setting high moral standards, Netanyahu prefers to keep faith with his crony.

Natan Eshel was ousted from his position as chief of staff in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau, and from the civil service as a whole, after confessing as part of a plea bargain that, while still in public service, he violated the privacy of another bureau employee.

According to his confession, he accessed her computer without her permission, gave out personal information about her, and also photographed her in improper ways and without her permission.

Eshel's behavior, which demonstrated unacceptable norms, was repudiated by the attorney general. But it evidently didn't bother Netanyahu: The prime minister never denounced his close associate. In practice, their cooperation never ended, and with the start of negotiations over forming a new government, it turned out that Netanyahu even intended to make Eshel the head of his coalition negotiation team.

The prime minister - who, during his election campaign, accused Habayit Hayehudi of "excluding women," and who previously declared at a graduation ceremony for pilots that "in a country where women sit in the pilot's seat, women can sit anywhere" - decided to return Eshel to the public sphere, even if not in an official capacity.

The protest that erupted once Eshel's role in the negotiations became known - which included an online petition and a Facebook page with more than 4,000 members - is both justified and praiseworthy. And this protest even bore fruit: The Yesh Atid party, headed by Yair Lapid, announced that it wouldn't hold coalition negotiations with any team to which Eshel belongs. It must be hoped that the other parties will do the same.

The fact that a party leader felt compelled to cast a moral veto on the prime minister's envoy is embarrassing.

It also casts doubt on Netanyahu's judgment: Instead of the prime minister setting high moral standards for Israeli society, and thereby marking the proper path for his citizens to follow, he preferred to keep faith with his crony, and thereby to undermine fundamental public norms. Netanyahu should end his cooperation with Eshel and replace him with someone more suitable.