Labor MK threatens to sue party chief over suspension, denies sex offenses

Eitan Broshi, accused of harassment of former colleague, demands apology from Avi Gabbay, who said Knesset is no place for ‘sex offenders’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi is seen at the Knesset on July 18, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi is seen at the Knesset on July 18, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A Labor party lawmaker who was temporarily suspended by the party leader amid allegations of sexual harassment said Monday that the measure had no legal basis, demanded an apology and threatened to take legal action over the move.

MK Eitan Broshi’s defiance came amid mounting calls from members of his own parliamentary faction that he step down in light of accusations that he sexually harassed a colleague 15 years ago in an elevator. He also recently touched a female MK from his party inappropriately, and then apologized for his action.

“There is no suspension and there is no legality,” Broshi told Channel 10 TV news, which the night before had broken the news of the alleged 15-year-old misdeed. “Also, there is no Knesset now,” he added, in reference to parliament being in recess for the summer. “It is merely [for display].”

Broshi noted that Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay had not asked him about the alleged elevator assault before he issued the suspension and referred to Broshi as a “sex offender” in a tweet.

Broshi’s attorney said he would send a letter of warning to Gabbay later Monday.

On Sunday Gabbay, who is currently vacationing overseas, tweeted that he had spoken to Broshi and informed him that he had been suspended from party activities. Gabbay does not have the authority to remove Broshi from the Knesset.

Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 18, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“I asked him to accept responsibility for his deplorable actions and to leave the Knesset,” Gabbay tweeted. “There is no place for sex offenders either on the streets or in the Knesset.”

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel said Monday it had new testimony on other inappropriate actions by Broshi that were committed since he became an MK in 2015, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Kan said that Labor MKs have received reports from others of alleged sexual harassment committed in the past.

Speaking to Army Radio, Broshi’s attorney Ilan Bombach rejected the allegations of assault in an elevator as “simply a lowly plot” and questioned why no complaint had been made at the time of the alleged incident, when Broshi was head of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council.

“Someone comes up with a complaint, there was never a complaint to police, no one ever spoke to him, no one ever warned him,” Bombach said. “He didn’t sexually harass.”

Regarding Gabbay’s demand that Broshi resign from the Knesset, Bombach said it had no basis, and that a person could not be ousted based on an anonymous 15-year-old claim.

“Anyone who calls for him to resign should resign themselves. Tthey should be ashamed,” Bombach declared.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich is seen at the Knesset on October 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several MKs have demanded that Broshi remove himself from parliament, including Labor MK Meirav Michaeli, who told Army Radio, “Eitan Broshi has the right to fight for his innocence, but he should not do that as a member of Knesset.”

Fellow Labor MKs Yossi Yonah, Shelly Yachimovich and Stav Shaffir all issued calls for Broshi to leave the Knesset.

The developments come less than two weeks after MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin accused Broshi of touching her on the buttocks during a field trip by members of the opposition party. She subsequently accepted his apology.

Yachimovich said Broshi should have resigned after the incident with Nahmias-Verbin.

“Generally, one who engages in sexual harassment, in obscene acts — and in [the new] testimony we are talking about a real assault — usually, it is not a one-off,” Yachimovich said, according to a report from the Haaretz daily.

Broshi, she said, “is staining the Labor party, the Zionist Union faction. We are living in an entirely new era, and this type of behavior won’t just [be dismissed] by ‘the boys’ with a nudge and a wink and an atmosphere of forgiveness. There is no more forgiveness.”

The Labor party, together with the Hatnua party, forms the main opposition faction, the Zionist Union.

Channel 10 reported that Zionist Union faction chairman MK Yoel Hasson will soon begin taking steps to curtail Broshi’s presence in the Knesset by limiting his ability to function as a lawmaker. Among the measures Hasson can take are removing Broshi from committees, preventing him from submitting bills under the auspices of the faction, and stopping him from speaking before the plenum on behalf of the party.

Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson attends a Knesset committee meeting on November 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

As the Knesset has just begun a three-month summer break, party activists are also expected to prevent Broshi from appearing at events as a party representative, the report said.

If Broshi were to resign from the Knesset, he would be replaced by anti-corruption activist Eldad Yaniv, who has led weekly rallies against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the last year and a half.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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