PM spokesman David Keyes to resign after sexual misconduct probe closed – report

Civil Service Commission also said to end examination of Ambassador Dermer, who did not pass on information about alleged bad behavior

Raphael Ahren is a former 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)

David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s international media spokesman, will reportedly resign after the Civil Service Commission recently closed its informal probe of the accusations against him.

Keyes took an open-ended leave of absence in September due to accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior.

According to a report Wednesday by Hadashot TV news, the Civil Service Commission has also dropped its probe into the behavior of Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, who received information from journalist Bret Stephens about Keyes’s alleged behavior, but did not convey the warning to the Prime Minister’s Office.

However, a spokesman for the commission denied that the probe of Dermer had been dropped. “We haven’t taken a decision on the matter yet,” the spokesperson said. “The issue is still being looked at by us and the Foreign Ministry.”

The spokesperson also emphasized that there had never been a formal investigation of Keyes.

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, the Los Angeles native took a leave from his duties, vowing to clear his name.

According to Wednesday’s Hadashot report, the Civil Service Commission decided to close the informal probe because nearly all of the complaints against Keyes related to the years when he lived in the US — before he went to work for Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2016.

The Times of Israel reported on one complainant who accused Keyes of having made an “aggressive, sexual” advance weeks after he started working in the Prime Minister’s Office. But after a brief interview with the woman, a new immigrant from North America, the commission dismissed her testimony, saying that the information she conveyed “does not raise any suspicion of an offense on the part of Keyes.”

Bret Stephens. (Jason Smith via JTA)

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the commission “did not announce anything” on the matter, and “therefore the matter has not yet been discussed.”

Keyes did not respond to a request for comment by the time this article was published.

Stephens contacted Dermer in November 2016 and warned him that Keyes “posed a risk to women in Israeli government offices,” The New York Times reported in September. 

Dermer’s office acknowledged receiving Stephens’s message at the time, but said the ambassador had decided not to pass it on to Netanyahu because the allegations were not criminal in nature.

“Information of the call was not conveyed to the PMO. If Stephens or anyone else had given the ambassador information on sexual assault or any other criminal act towards women perpetrated by anyone in the PMO — whether before or after that person was appointed — he would have notified the PMO immediately,” Dermer’s office said in a statement.

It was not clear what information precisely Stephens had provided Dermer. In Israel, sexual harassment, not only assault, is considered a crime. In the wake of The Times of Israel reports, several lawmakers asked that Keyes be suspended until a full investigation has been conducted.

Keyes has denied the allegations, saying all “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 his only public statement on the matter, Netanyahu told reporters on September 26: “I’m sure Ambassador Dermer acted entirely properly and appropriately.” He noted that “the matter is currently being probed by the Civil Service Commission, and we will let the investigation take its course.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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