Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay announced Sunday that he was suspending a lawmaker from the faction who has been accused of sexually harassing a colleague 15 years ago, and who recently touched a female MK from his party inappropriately.
A woman who worked with MK Eitan Broshi 15 years ago accused him of trapping her in an elevator and touching “intimate” parts of her body, Channel 10 news reported Sunday evening.
In response to the report, 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.
“I asked him to accept responsibility for his embarrassing actions and to leave the Knesset,” he posted. “There is no place for sex offenders either on the street or in the Knesset.”
At the time he allegedly harassed the woman in the elevator, Broshi was not an MK, but head of the Jezreel Valley regional council, a post he held from 1999 to 2006.
The woman told the news station that she and Broshi attended a seminar with many participants. At the end of the session, they both went into an elevator to get to their rooms.
“When the elevator came, we both ascended to the floor we needed, where we were sleeping — everyone in a separate room obviously,” she said. “Eitan didn’t allow me to leave the elevator and actually pushed me while I was in the elevator, and didn’t allow me to leave while he was touching my intimate parts.”
She said she was trapped in the elevator and tried to push him off of her.
“All the while, he kept asking me what my problem was and why I wasn’t into it, why was I making a big deal out of it,” she said. “I managed to get out of the elevator and escape by the skin of my teeth, after I pushed him several times.”
The woman, who chose to remain anonymous and had her voice altered when she spoke to Channel 10, said that on the following day she told her supervisor about the incident.
Channel 10 contacted the supervisor, who recalled the incident well. “I trusted her description and all her feelings,” he said. “My impression was that she experienced something very traumatic.”
The network reported that the woman had sent a letter to Gabbay on Sunday night about the alleged harassment.
Broshi initially said he did not remember the incident when asked about it by Channel 10. His lawyer said it was “surprising” that the woman only came forward 15 years after the incident.
“The incident never happened. MK Broshi never did any act of harassment,” his lawyer said. “As a politician, Broshi has acquired enemies and the timing [of this claim] is not coincidental. I intend to sue for libel.”
The report comes 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 and subsequently accepted his apology.
Broshi was forced to apologize to her after the incident was witnessed by Gabbay, opposition whip MK Yoel Hasson, and others. Nahmias-Verbin said that when she initially demanded an apology following the incident, Broshi ignored her.
The incident reportedly occurred when Broshi tried to get Nahmias-Verbin to move aside, while at a party event near the Gaza border last week.
According to the reports, witnesses present said that Broshi initially did not understand that his actions were problematic.
“Shortly after the incident I apologized — a gesture that was supposed to be friendly was in fact completely the opposite. As soon as I understood the mistake, I apologized to her from the bottom of my heart,” said Broshi.
The chairman of the State Control Committee, fellow Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, said Sunday that Broshi should have been expelled after harassing Nahmias-Verbin, and all the more so after the latest report.
“Broshi and sex offenders like him have no place in the Knesset or in public life,” she said. “However, currently there is no way to expel him against his will. But I call on him to resign immediately and to stop embarrassing us.”
She said she would do everything in her power to end his term and called on any other women who may have been harassed by Broshi to come forward.
Meretz MKs Tamar Zandberg and Michal Rozin called on Broshi to resign immediately.
“Rather than threaten mock libel suits, it would have been better for MK Broshi to publicly acknowledge his actions and take full responsibility for them,” they said in a joint statement.
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.
Despite having announced his resignation from the Labor party earlier this year over disagreements with Gabbay’s leadership, Yaniv is still the next in line on the party’s electoral list — with former MK Robert Tiviaev set to replace Issac Herzog who resigned this week to take up the chairmanship of the Jewish Agency, and former MK Moshe Mizrachi expected to replace MK Zoheir Bahloul who has said he will resign in October over the newly-passed nation-state law.