Growing number of MKs call on Netanyahu to suspend Keyes amid accusations
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Growing number of MKs call on Netanyahu to suspend Keyes amid accusations

Four female legislators say PM must intervene after 12 women tell Times of Israel of inappropriate behavior by his spokesman

David Keyes speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, July 23, 2018. (Gali Tibbon/Pool via AP)
David Keyes speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, July 23, 2018. (Gali Tibbon/Pool via AP)

Four lawmakers called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to suspend David Keyes, his spokesperson to the foreign media, following accusations by a dozen women of inappropriate behavior toward them and other women.

Merav Ben-Ari, of the coalition Kulanu party, said that Keyes could not carry on as usual in his role.

“I think Prime Minister Netanyahu must intervene,” she tweeted. “It makes no sense that a senior adviser harasses [women] — you could even say that he obsesses about many women — while he continues to work as if it were nothing.

“If I would have an adviser like that (God forbid), I would have put him on leave without pay first thing in the morning until all the facts had been clarified,” she added.

MK Merav Ben Ari attends a Labor committee meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Opposition lawmaker Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said: “The accumulation of such severe accusations by a growing number of women necessitates a swift and unequivocal response. The silence from the Prime Minister’s Office is infuriating, and could be construed as acceptance of the acts. This cannot be the face of Israel, the the prime minister must suspend Keyes from all activity until the suspicions are investigated.”

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) also criticized Netanyahu’s silence. “Twelve women have already reported sexual harassment by spokesman David Keyes and the prime minister is silent and ignoring it. Is this the attitude toward women in the Prime Minister’s Office?” she said.

Michal Rozin (Meretz) said that Keyes’s alleged actions should be condemned by Netanyahu.

Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Keyes doesn’t only represent the prime minister to the world but also the country. Silence sends a message of support,” she wrote on Twitter.

“I call on the prime minister to suspend Keyes from his position and to clarify the facts. The brave testimonies that were gathered paint a worrying picture of a pattern of harassment,” she added. “While the rest of the world advances and campaigns for zero tolerance to sexual violence, the prime minister… remains silent.”

So far there has been no comment from the prime minister or his office. However, in response to the allegations, Keyes told The Times of Israel on Wednesday: “All of the accusations are deeply misleading and many of them are categorically false.”

In this Wednesday, August 15, 2018, photo, Democratic New York state Senate candidate Julia Salazar smiles as she speaks to a supporter before a rally in McCarren Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar on Tuesday had detailed her alleged 2013 sexual assault by Keyes. After that, Wall Street Journal reporter Shayndi Raice, responding to Salazar’s allegation, described an “uncomfortable” encounter with Keyes, whom she called a predator.

On Wednesday night The Times of Israel published a report about 10 other women who have also made allegations against Keyes, including one detailed accusation of physically aggressive behavior, claims of overly aggressive advances, and incidents of inappropriate behavior. The women spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Several sources, furthermore, have said that Keyes’s alleged improper behavior toward women, which took place before he was appointed Netanyahu’s spokesman in 2016, was so well-known that he was asked to stay away from certain offices that he used to frequent in New York.

Keyes was first accused of sexual assault by Salazar in April 2016, in a private Facebook post that was subsequently deleted, but that Salazar has now acknowledged posting.

The Times of Israel has also obtained two emails Keyes sent to women in which he apologized “for being less than gentlemanly.”

In 2016, when Salazar detailed Keyes’s alleged sexual assault against her in a private Facebook post, that post made its way to the Israeli press (including The Times of Israel), which reported it without naming her. Some journalists knew she was behind the accusation but respected her wish not to be named.

The Prime Minister’s Office at the time denied the charges on Keyes’s behalf, with sources telling reporters about Salazar’s past engagement with leftist groups in an apparent effort to diminish her credibility.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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