Bennett: Zero tolerance for improper behavior

Jewish Home chairman says authorities must look into allegations against MK Magal, not Facebook.

Gil Ronen, | updated: 12:20

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Marc Israel Sellem / Flash 90

Education Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett issued a statement Wednesday regarding the allegations against MK Yinon Magal, regarding improper behavior toward two female former co-workers.

"Yinon Magal is a true friend of mine, and I love him and his family," wrote Bennett. "But the things that he said should not be said in any form, and there is no room for them – certainly when the person saying them is a public official. I will have zero tolerance for improper behavior."

He added, however: "Israel is a law abiding country and one's fate is not decided in the public Facebook Square. This is doubly true when lives are at stake. Yinon is certain of his innocence, and I intend to let the authorities do their jobs, and we will take action accordingly.

"Yinon asked me yesterday to be relieved of his role as faction chairman and I agreed to this request," Bennett added. "MK Shuli Mualem will replace him as faction chair."

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said Wednesday that he feels uncomfortable with the accusations against Magal but decried what he called the "public lynch" against the MK.

"When information like this comes up, the police needs to look into it, and to do it in an orderly fashion and quickly. When details become clear then we can talk. Right now, I think an unnecessary public lynch has been taking place. Everyone is saying… that he is already guilty, and that he needs to be dismissed, and what not. Guys, he's not leaving Israel. He's here. Matters will be taken care of, as Minister Bennett is doing.   

"When details become clear, there will be conclusions, too," he said.

Interviewed on Army Radio, Ariel said that he does not know the women who accused Magal of improper behavior at a going-away party and it is possible that they are saying the truth, but no one knows this yet.

Ariel said that Magal has not admitted the charges leveled at him. While he issued a general apology, he did not direct it at a specific person, the minister noted, and did not admit hurting anyone.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) also issued a statement on the matter.

"I am not objective," he said. "Yinon is a friend and a brother, I hold him in very high esteem and think that he is one of the best MKs in the Knesset today. That is why it pained me very much to hear about the hurtful and unworthy statements that apparently came out of his mouth. This really does not fit in with the Yinon whom I know. This morning I am still feeling pain but I already feel much better."

MK Smotrich explained that Magal's "complete regret" and his apology, his desire to "make teshuva" and resign from the position of faction chairman, "are worthy of appreciation and allow us to put matters behind us and allow Yinon to make things better, and continue to serve the Nation of Israel with us, in sanctity and purity of heart. I want to strengthen Yinon in the difficult times he is undergoing, and to wish him and his family that they will emerge strengthened from this crisis and from the learning of lessons that accompanies it."

"We will be doing a good thing as a society if we utilize this opportunity and learn some lessons about building a healthier and less permissive society," he added, "and about codes of conduct in public places that will be more respectful of both men and women, and prevent unfortunate incidents."

Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan said following Magal's resignation as faction chairman: "Yinon took responsibility and bravely did the right thing. Yinon understood that his statements were improper and were such that are not worthy of a public official, especially one from the Jewish Home, he asked the women to forgive him and displayed public responsibility by leaving the position of faction chairman.

"Yinon came to the Knesset out of a sense of public mission and I am sure that in the personal and family level he is undergoing an unbearably hard experience, and has also been dealt a heavy and serious blow on the public level. I am satisfied with the joint decision by Minister Bennett and MK Magal to end his role as faction chairman."

Ben Dahan expressed his wish that public officials learn from Magal to "make teshuva" for their deeds. "When King David sinned with Bat Sheva, he taught us the value of teshuva. I hope that other public officials will behave in a similar fashion in the future."

"Teshuva" refers to repenting sins, returning to one's Jewish roots, and learning to live in accordance with the values of the Torah.

MK Shuli Mualem (Jewish Home) said Wednesday that she was "very sorry" to hear about the statements attributed to Magal, whom she called "my friend."

"This is not the path of the Jewish Home party, which works for women in every possible arena. I respect Yinon's decision to mend his ways and bear responsibility, and I suggest that we wait for the relevant elements to make their inquiry."