The Israel Police announced Sunday they possessed sufficient evidence to place a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial for sexual offenses and recommended the ex-official be prosecuted.
Gil Sheffer, who held the top post in the Prime Minister’s Office from May 2012 to July 2013, was named in early December as the suspect in a case involving allegations of sexual assault, after he was questioned under caution and ordered to house arrest for five days following a month-long investigation.
The woman who accused Sheffer of assault filed charges in October claiming the 47-year-old former official locked her in an apartment against her will and forcibly tried to kiss her after they met at a conference.
She said Sheffer gave her a ride home and during the journey, sat next to her on the back seat, plied her with alcohol, and touched her against her will. He then allegedly took her to an apartment where there were other men, forced her to perform for them, and tried to kiss her against her will.
It was not clear if the alleged incident took place while Sheffer was serving in the Prime Minister’s Office.
In its announcement on Sunday, the Israel Police said that its investigation found sufficient evidence to try Sheffer for “indecent acts” — meaning sexual offenses — but that there was not enough proof to put him on trial for false imprisonment, according to Hebrew-media reports.
The police said all the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation will be transferred to the Tel Aviv District Court, where the prosecution will decide whether to proceed with the case against Sheffer, as the police have recommended.
After news of the case broke in December, Sheffer’s lawyer, Gil Fridman, said that the claims were “baseless,” and would be proven wrong. “At the end of the investigation it will become clear that there was nothing untoward in my client’s actions,” Fridman told Channel 2 news at the time.
Sheffer’s resignation as chief of staff after just one year on the job came amid reports of a previous sexual harassment allegation against him dating back some 15 years.
In 2012, a woman filed charges against Sheffer for sexual harassment but then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein ruled against opening a police investigation due to the statute of limitations having passed. In 2013 the claims were made known to the public when the woman again requested that Weinstein investigate the claims, purporting to have new evidence. However, after consultation with the Civil Service Commission it was again decided not to open a probe.
The departure was reportedly agreed upon with the prime minister, and Sheffer denied his resignation had anything to do with the allegations against him. “There was no connection between the departure and these claims,” Sheffer said in a statement at the time.
The Prime Minister’s Office also said the resignation was unrelated to the allegations.
The scandal was a further blow to the Prime Minister’s Office given Sheffer had replaced Nathan Eshel as chief of staff, who was himself forced to quit amid a harassment investigation.
In 2012, Eshel stepped down as part of a plea bargain over allegations of sexual misconduct; specifically that he had used a surreptitiously placed camera to film under the skirt of a female colleague. He was also accused of accessing her private emails.
The sexual harassment claims against Sheffer appear to have been filed in light of a separate investigation into alleged financial irregularities at the prime minister’s official residence. Sheffer was also revealed in early December to have been questioned in connection with the case.
Sheffer was reportedly questioned under caution by the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit of the Israel Police in November.