Culture Minister Miri Regev’s office was in contact with a woman who accused Benny Gantz of sexual harassment weeks before the accuser publicly made the allegation on Wednesday.
Members of Regev’s staff helped the woman, Nava Jacobs, approach a journalist about a month ago while Jacobs was attempting to publicize her story, according to a report Thursday on the Walla news site.
Jacobs wrote in a Facebook post that Gantz had exposed himself in front of her some 40 years ago, when she was about 14 and he was several years older. Gantz flatly rejected the allegation, saying they were politically motivated and that he was taking legal action against Jacobs.
Regev’s Likud party is in close competition with Gantz’s Blue and White party in the polls, with one of the two factions expected to win the upcoming elections.
Members of Regev’s staff were aware of Jacobs’s claims and helped her get in touch with a reporter, Regev’s office confirmed.
Nearly a month before Jacobs published her post, a spokesperson for Regev, Eli Sabati, alluded to Jacobs’s claims on social media, Walla reported.
Responding to a post by Gantz’s party, Sabati wrote on January 31, “By the way: really soon, who exposed their penis to girls at Kfar Hayarok?”
Kfar Hayarok is the school where the incident allegedly took place.
Responding to Walla, Regev’s office confirmed it had been aware of the charges by Jacobs, who now lives in New York.
“About a month ago Jacobs approached the minister’s assistant, whom she met by chance in New York,” Regev’s office said. “She asked to talk with Minister Regev about a personal issue concerning sexual harassment. Minister Regev did not speak with her and answered through her assistant.
“She suggested to her that she file a complaint with legal authorities. Jacobs asked the assistant to connect her with a reporter from Channel 12 in order to tell her personal story. The assistant and the spokesperson made the connection with the news reporter,” it said.
After the connection was made, the reporter and Jacobs communicated directly. Channel 12 did not publish any of the claims; it was not immediately clear why. The allegation was heavily discussed on social media Wednesday, but only reported in mainstream media after Gantz responded with the denial.
Jacobs confirmed to Walla that she had been in touch with a member of Regev’s staff, and said she did not know Regev personally and had not contacted her.
Responding to the Walla report, Gantz’s Blue and White party said “the exposure of the connection between Miri Regev’s office and the false complaint by Nava Jacobs requires an immediate criminal investigation.
“There is a method here by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Regev where there aren’t any boundaries and nothing is sacred except for their political survival. We believe the public will show them that they have had enough of the Netanyahu-Regev system,” the party said.
In her Facebook post detailing her allegation, Jacobs said Gantz approached her in a cowshed, unzipped his pants and exposed himself, that she felt herself to be in danger, and that a friend then appeared and pulled him away. She said in the post that the incident “ruined my life.”
Speaking to Army Radio Thursday morning, Jacobs said she stood by her allegation.
“I was ashamed and I shouldn’t be ashamed. I am the victim here,” Jacobs said in an emotional interview. “I stand with my truth even if I stand alone.”
Asked why she waited decades before telling her story, despite Gantz’s long career in the public eye, Jacobs said she was disturbed by seeing pictures of Gantz everywhere after “not following him so much” in the past. She said she suffered from anxiety and fibromyalgia stemming from the incident.
“When you’re talking about sexual harassment you don’t know how it’s going to erupt, whether stronger or less strong. You can’t explain it if you haven’t experienced it yourself,” Jacobs said. “When he became IDF chief of staff I also felt sick, but when a man’s going to become prime minister, those are two different things.”