A former close aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not help manage Likud-Beytenu’s coalition talks, after an outcry over his participation led Yesh Atid to announce it would not negotiate with him.
Natan Eshel’s pulling out of the negotiation team came at the request of Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, according to a report by Israel Radio.
Eshel was forced to resign his position as the prime minister’s bureau chief last February amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
As part of a plea bargain in the sexual harassment case, Eshel admitted to misconduct, received a “severe reprimand” and was forced to retire from public service.
However, Eshel has remained active behind the scenes, helping put together a short-lived Likud-Kadima national unity coalition last spring and now being put in charge of forming the next government.
Following Netanyahu’s appointment of Eshel, incoming Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg sent a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein asking that he not allow Eshel’s return to public life.
On Sunday, Yesh Atid, expected to be a senior coalition partner, said it would not sit at the same table with Eshel.
Sources in Likud-Beytenu have attempted to paint Yesh Atid’s coalition negotiation chief, Uri Shani, as no angel himself, saying he’s been convicted of breach of trust in the past.
Yesh Atid responded by pointing out the conviction was 15 years ago over the fact that Shani used a government vehicle for private use, and not a serious crime.
The freshman Yesh Atid party, with 19 seats, is expected to be the second largest party in the new government.
Reports surfaced Monday that Lapid was attempting to bring the two-seat Kadima party into his camp to boost his standing.
The centrist Kadima, the largest party in the outgoing Knesset, counts former defense minister Shaul Mofaz as its head.
Netanyahu, whose Likud-Beytenu list took 31 seats, is widely expected to be tapped to form the next government by President Shimon Peres by the end of the week.