The head of a major group of West Bank settlements stepped down Friday following allegations that he sexually assaulted a Jerusalem woman and paid her off to keep quiet.
Davidi Perl, chairman of the Etzion Bloc Regional Council, sent a letter to council residents on Friday morning, announcing his decision to resign and maintaining that he had done nothing wrong.
“Although there is no impediment to me continuing my term, for various reasons, especially the good of my family, I have decided to step down,” Perl said in his statement.
The sprawling bloc, located south and southeast of Jerusalem, is home to some 70,000 people living in more than 20 communities.
Channel 10 television reported last month that Perl had agreed to pay a reported NIS 200,000 ($53,000) to the 20-year-old woman. His accuser filed a complaint against Perl with the Takana Forum, which specializes in dealing discreetly with sexual abuse cases in the Modern Orthodox community. In return, the woman withdrew her complaint and Perl agreed to not run for council in any future elections.
Perl protested his innocence, and said he paid the woman solely to protect his family and prevent the accusations becoming public.
Perl’s acting replacement, deputy chairman Moshe Saville, paid tribute Friday to the departing leader as a devoted public servant, Channel 10 reported.
“I am personally sorry, as a friend and as someone who worked with him for the last five years on behalf of the Etzion Bloc,” Saville said.
“Davidi was a dedicated public emissary and scored many victories in development and construction for the bloc. On behalf of the Etzion Bloc residents I thank him for his unique contribution and leading the council during the difficult days of the past year due to the security situation. I will start the handover process in the coming days.”
The council said earlier this month that it saw no reason to end Perl’s tenure as its chairman, after reviewing the findings of an internal investigation into the suspicions of sexual assault, and despite his acknowledgement that he paid off the woman accusing him.
The council based its decision to keep Perl in his job on the recommendations of the team, which said in a statement that “it found no significant basis for a suspicion of sexual assault” and could not take the side of either the accuser or the defendant.
According to Channel 10, the case began a year ago when the woman lodged a complaint with the Takana Forum. The forum questioned the woman in detail and reached the conclusion that her accusations were valid. Takana consulted with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who advised the forum to deal with the matter as best it could, given that the alleged victim refused to file a police complaint out of fear of making her identity public.
Takana, which includes prominent rabbis and officials, tried unsuccessfully for months to persuade Perl to attend a hearing. Finally, one of the rabbis hired an attorney to represent the woman and two months ago managed to secure Perl’s consent for a negotiated settlement. In return for the payment the accuser would retract her complaint and Perl would not run in future elections.