Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced Sunday that he will refuse to conduct coalition negotiations with Natan Eshel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's trusted negotiator.
Eshel admitted last year to improper behavior involving a female staffer in the Prime Minister's Office. As part of a plea deal, he resigned from his position in the PMO staff and was permanently banned from public service. Despite this, Netanyahu reportedly wanted Eshel to act as an informal negotiator in the current coalition talks.
Sources closed to Eshel reacted angrily to the announcement by Lapid, noting that Lapid negotiator Uri Shani was convicted of breach of trust in 1999, and threatened that Netanyahu would refuse to sit with Shani, too.
The announcement by Lapid follows pressure by incoming MK-elect Tamar Zandberg of Meretz, a party which another Meretz MK has described as having a "leftist-feminist" ideology. Zandberg and other activists have started a Facebook campaign against Eshel that has collected over 3,000 supporters, and they plan to hold a demonstration outside Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv Thursday, with the slogan – "no negotiation with sex offenders."
Zandberg said Monday that Eshel has threatened her and another activist with libel suits.
Meanwhile, Labor Chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich revealed Monday that Eshel mistakenly sent her a copy of an email last month, in which he asked a legal adviser whether he could serve as Netanyahu's chief negotiator in coalition talks. She showed a screenshot of the e-mail on her Facebook page. Channel 2 speculated that the move may have been intended to deflect some of the pressure Yachimovich is currently under from within her own party, after the disappointing showing in the polls.
Channel 10 reported Monday night that the negotiating team for Netanyahu will not include Eshel. Nor will it include Minister Gideon Saar, who is apparently in disfavor after his failure as election campaign manager.
Members of the team will be attorneys Yitzchak Molcho, David Shimron and Yoav Mani, as well as former Prime Minister's Office General Manager, Accountant Moshe Leon.
Leftist feminists are extremely strict about allegations of sexual misconduct by Jews, especially when politicians whom they oppose are involved.