Prime Minister Bureau Chief to Step Down Over Harassment Allegations

Natan Eshel, who has been on leave since shortly after the scandal broke in late January, will resign by the end of this month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief Natan Eshel, who allegedly harassed a female subordinate, has admitted to inappropriate behavior and will resign permanently from public service. This agreement was reached yesterday by a disciplinary tribunal of the Civil Service Commission.

Eshel, who has been on leave since shortly after the scandal broke in late January, will resign by the end of this month.

Natan Eshel
Emil Salman

People close to Eshel’s alleged victim, known only as “R.,” said yesterday she was glad the ordeal had ended without her being forced to testify and hoped to return to work.

Yesterday’s agreement contains no mention of accusations of sexual harassment.

As part of the deal, Eshel has admitted to causing injury to “R.” and violating her privacy, by going into her computer without her permission. He has also admitted to passing on private and personal information about R. to other figures in the Prime Minister’s Office, without any justifiable reason. In addition, he admitted to photographing R. “in an unacceptable manner” in various circumstances.

The panel charged Eshel with violating civil service discipline and with conduct unbecoming to a civil servant. In addition to resigning, severe reprimands will be noted in his file and he will be enjoined from reentering public service.

In a statement released after the deal was announced, Eshel said the arrangement “lifts the cloud of indecent acts and/or pictures and sexual harassment off my life once and for all, and puts an end to the witch-hunt around me. Now it is clear that the interaction did not have a sexual nature.”

The statement said: “In retrospect, it is clear that I was dragged into too high a level of awareness with respect to the affairs of the office’s employee, and that I should have avoided that.”

Eshel also stated that, “for the last month I have been under a terrible attack and in the middle of a storm that has turned my life and my family’s life into an unbearable nightmare.”

He went on to say that in light of his age and health, a desire to avoid burdening his family and friends any further, and his inability to cover the financial costs of clearing his name in court − he decided, after consulting his family, to accept the deal, to admit to a minor disciplinary offense, to retire and get on with his life.

The allegations against Eshel were brought not by R. herself, who has refused to testify all along, but by senior colleagues in the PMO who brought the matter to the attention of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. They included National Information Directorate head Yoaz Hendel, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser and Netanyahu’s military secretary Yohanan Locker.

In the course of the Civil Service Commission investigation ordered by Weinstein, 28 witnesses and others involved in the issue were questioned.