Israel’s US ambassador did not pass on warning of sexual misconduct by Netanyahu aide

Sep 14, 2018

David Keyes was appinted as a spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu in 2016. (Twitter)

(JTA) — Israel’s ambassador to the United States was warned about sexual misconduct allegations against David Keyes, the prime minister’s spokesman, but chose not to pass on the information to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Keyes took a leave of absence Thursday from his position as a spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu after a number of women accused him of sexual misconduct. The allegations date back to at least 2013, when Keyes headed a human rights organization in New York.

That year, Keyes was barred from entering The Wall Street Journal opinion section’s offices without an appointment because women who worked there complained that he propositioned them, according to The New York Times. In addition to establishing that arrangement in response to Keyes’s behavior, Bret Stephens, then the section’s deputy editor and now a Times columnist, said he called Keyes a “disgrace to men” and a “disgrace as a Jew.”

Stephens told The Times that in November 2016, as reporters started investigating allegations surrounding Keyes, he warned Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S.., Ron Dermer, that Keyes “posed a risk to women in Israeli government offices.” Keyes had been appointed a spokesman for Netanyahu earlier that year.

On Friday, Dermer acknowledged the conversation with Stephens but said he did not pass on the information to the Prime Minister’s Office because Keyes’ behavior did not constitute criminal conduct.

“The ambassador received a phone call from Bret Stephens over half a year after David Keyes entered his role in the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the conduct attributed to Keyes before he joined the office,” a statement from Dermer read. “Information about the conversation was not provided to the Prime Minister’s Office. If Stephens or anyone else had given the ambassador information about sexual assault or any other criminal act committed against women by anybody in the Prime Minister’s Office, whether they occurred before the person entered the position or after, he would have immediately informed the Prime Minister’s Office.”

The Times also reported that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish think tank influential on Iran policy, changed its office policies in 2014 in response to Keyes’ behavior. The foundation said it restricted visitors from roaming the office freely after Keyes propositioned two female employees.

Keyes was publicly accused of sexual misconduct this week by two women: Julia Salazar, who won the Democratic primary for a state Senate seat in Brooklyn Thursday, and Shayndi Raice, a Wall Street Journal reporter. The Times of Israel also reported on various allegations against Keyes by as many as 10 women, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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