Netanyahu spokesman Keyes officially quits after sexual misconduct allegations
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Netanyahu spokesman Keyes officially quits after sexual misconduct allegations

Keyes thanks commission for closing probe into wrongdoing, indicates he will enter the private sector; PM praises California native for videos explaining Israel’s positions

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

David Keyes, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on their way to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, pool)
David Keyes, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on their way to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s international media spokesman David Keyes formally resigned his position Wednesday, three months after allegations of sexual misconduct against him surfaced.

Keyes had taken an open-ended leave of absence in mid-September, due to multiple accusations of inappropriate behavior, most of which dated from before he worked for Netanyahu. He has denied the allegations.

On November 29, the Civil Service Commission formally closed its probes into alleged misbehavior against Keyes, saying no wrongdoing was found on his part that would require further disciplinary action. It also closed a probe against Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer for not passing along a warning about Keyes.

“I thank the Israel Civil Service Commission for closing its probe against me, stating ‘There is no evidence or even a shred of evidence’ of wrongdoing as an employee of the government,'” Keyes said in a statement.

“Having been deeply inspired by how Israeli innovation is improving the lives of people around the world, I have decided to pursue new opportunities in the private sector,” he added.

“I thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for giving me the great honor of serving him and the State of Israel.”

Keyes, a Los Angeles native who made his name as an online activist, moved to Israel in 2016 after being appointed Netanyahu’s spokesperson.

In a statement, Netanyahu praised Keyes for advancing Israel’s public diplomacy, including with a series of videos put out by the PMO meant to sell Israel’s positions to the world.

“David pioneered groundbreaking videos which presented basic facts about Israel and enabled me to present Israel’s policies to a global audience,” he said.

“Millions of people around the world viewed these videos with appreciation, and the messages aimed at the Iranian public were received with particular enthusiasm by many Iranian citizens,” he went on. “All this attests to David’s talent and contribution. I wish him success in the future.”

David Keyes, right, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 7, 2017. (AP/Oded Balilty, Pool)

On September 12, The Times of Israel published an exposé regarding Keyes, citing 12 women who described a pattern of inappropriate behavior toward themselves and other women, including at least two accounts of what could be considered sexual assault.

Since then, four more women have contacted The Times of Israel to complain about their encounters with Keyes. To date, four of the women who have complained about Keyes’s behavior have been named.

After the publication of the exposé, Keyes said all the allegations “are deeply misleading and many of them are categorically false.”

He later said that he was taking a leave of absence amid the uproar to try to clear his name.

In its November 29 letter, the head of the commission’s Department of Discipline, Guy David, noted that most of the complaints against Keyes related to the period before he started working for Netanyahu, and cited a 1963 law that states that disciplinary measures can only be taken against civil servants for deeds committed while they were working for the state.

The letter makes reference to The Times of Israel’s September 13 report about one complainant who accused Keyes of having made an “aggressive, sexual” advance weeks after he started working in the Prime Minister’s Office.

David noted that the decision to close the probe was based on legal criteria and did not speak to the veracity of the complaints or the question of Keyes’s suitability for his position, which is at the discretion of the PMO.

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