Dorit Mans Stern said Wednesday that her husband, Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern, “didn’t even have a paper shredder” during his time in the military, amid growing controversy over comments he made earlier this week suggesting he had ignored sexual harassment complaints as head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate.
“It was a bad interview — a mistake,” Dorit Stern told Channel 12 in reference to the radio interview her husband gave on Sunday, when he boasted of “shredding” many anonymous complaints during his time in the army. The minister’s response was to a question that the interviewer implied was about anonymous sexual harassment allegations, in particular.
The controversy quickly snowballed as Stern gave a series of interviews to the major networks hours later in which he insisted that his “shredder” comments were in reference to other kinds of anonymous complaints, but the interviewing anchors did not appear convinced.
In the days that followed, Channel 13 aired the testimonies of two women who worked under Stern in the IDF and who claimed that he had personally ignored complaints of sexual harassment.
On Tuesday, Stern announced that he would be dropping his bid to serve as the next chairman of the Jewish Agency, after he had been a frontrunner with the backing of both Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Reflecting on the incident publicly for the first time, Dorit Stern acknowledged that her husband could have worded his responses better, but insisted that the media had treated him unfairly.
דורית מנס-שטרן, האחת והמופלאה, יוצאת לרוץ כדי להגיד די לאלימות כלפי נשים!רוצי דורית! לתרומות לדורית: https://my.fundme.org.il/he/campaign/6242Dorit Manns Stern
“He says things passionately. He is routinely interviewed and this comes at a price,” Stern’s wife said in his defense. “I don’t know if it’s funny or sad, but he didn’t even own a shredder at the time. He suddenly thought during the interview that the appropriate metaphor to convey his message…would be a shredder. [This was] a mistake.”
“There’s a fast-media phenomenon here, which degenerates our listening muscles. Twitter has become our encyclopedia. Everything is available, here and now and only in the headlines,” she continued, criticizing the media for “pouncing” on her husband along with the women who came forward with new allegations against him.
Regarding the second woman who claimed Stern had created an “atmosphere of harassment, of touchy officers” and ignored complaints by herself and others, the minister’s wife said. “There is no way that he was in the room [with her]. He was not her commanding officer, the base commander is not usually the one who handles these things, but [the media] keeps [airing her claims], again and again.”
Asked if she was angry at her husband, Dorit Stern responded, “I cannot be angry because I know that part of his DNA, a large part, is integrity, dignity and fairness.”
“We have a healthy relationship of 40 years. If I have any anger… maybe a little of it is directed at us as women as we’re missing something here a little,” she continued, going on to reference her work as the head of a center for victims of sexual assault.
“Before you respond and criticize on every channel, take a minute. Even though he is a man, check what his motives are because really, not all men are looking to hurt and belittle women,” she added
With Stern out of the running, Lapid sent a letter to the Jewish Agency board responsible for choosing the next chairperson requesting to delay the decision.
Significant weight is given to the nominee put forth by the coalition, which Stern had been. Lapid had been hoping for more time to put forward a new candidate. He can also throw the government’s weight behind one of the existing candidates. Front-runners include former Blue and White minister Omer Yankelevich, former Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon and Likud MK Yuli Edelstein’s wife, Irina Nevzlin. The Times of Israel’s sister-site Zman Yisrael reported earlier Wednesday that former minister Tzipi Livni is also weighing throwing her hat in the ring.
On Wednesday evening, the Jewish Agency board notified Lapid that they would not be delaying the election. Those interested in running will have until this coming Sunday to submit their candidacy and the board will meet on October 26 to choose the next chairperson.