PM's Chief Aide Accused of Harassing Coworker

Justice Ministry spokesman: At this stage we have found no real substantiation of the information and haven't opened an official investigation.

The Civil Service Commission has recently examined a complaint that the head of the Prime Minister's Office harassed a female coworker by invading her privacy and following her after work.

The examination into the accusation against Natan Eshel has yet to be completed, but a Justice Ministry spokesman said yesterday, "At this stage we have found no real substantiation of the information and haven't opened an official investigation."

Army Radio reported yesterday that an employee at the Prime Minister's Office told her colleagues she was harassed by a senior official who read her text messages and looked at her private e-mail account.

Haaretz has learned that the worker did not want to complain to police or the Civil Service Commission, but that several days ago an anonymous complaint reached Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who referred it to the commission's disciplinary department, which was ordered to examine the reliability of the information.

The commission secretly questioned employees in the Prime Minister's Office who work with Eshel and the woman, who have been working together closely for the past three years. The information they gathered did not substantiate the initial information. The employee still refuses to complain to police or the commission.

Weinstein will have to determine, following the initial examination, if there is cause to continue gathering information and to open a commission or even a police investigation, but this seems unlikely.

The Prime Minister's Office said yesterday, "No complaint has been submitted against a senior official in the office, and this is merely an examination of gossip."

Eshel continued to work as usual yesterday, until a late hour. Sources close to him said that those who passed on the information to the attorney general were "elements who spread cheap gossip."

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office believe the affair is part of power struggles in the office. Although tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's aides have abated in the past few months, Eshel and some colleagues have had bitter confrontations.

Eshel, formerly deputy director general of Israel Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu daily, is considered one of the prime minister's most powerful aides. He was deeply involved in Defense Minister Ehud Barak's resignation from the Labor Party and led drives to persuade Kadima MKs to resign.