Netanyahu spokesman to take leave following accusations of sexual misconduct


(JTA) — David Keyes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, has said he will take time off from his position after 12 women accused him of sexual misconduct, according to a report by The Times of Israel.

“In light of the false and misleading accusations against me and in order not to distract from the important work of the Prime Minister, I have asked to take time off to clear my name,” Keyes said in a statement tweeted by Times of Israel reporter Raphael Ahren. “I am fully confident that the truth will come out.”

Ahren published a report Tuesday that a dozen women have accused Keyes of inappropriate behavior. The report was published after Julia Salazar, the embattled New York State Senate candidate, identified herself as the anonymous woman who accused Keyes of assault in 2016. Salazar made her statement after learning that she was going to be identified as the alleged victim in a news report.

“Before this runs, I want to come forward and confirm that I was a victim of sexual assault by David Keyes, the Prime Minister of Israel’s spokesperson to foreign media,” Salazar wrote, adding that “I’ve spoken to other journalists who were investigating accusations against David Keyes on background about this experience, but have never spoken on the record about it until now.”

Salazar told Jezebel on Tuesday that Keyes met with her at a cafe to discuss Israel in 2013, then brought her to his apartment, purportedly to continue the conversation. After they arrived, she said, he pulled her onto his couch, put his arm around her and began forcibly kissing her. She resisted, but then he began to undress, pushed her head down and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Following Salazar’s statement Tuesday, Wall Street Journal reporter Shayndi Raice tweeted that she also had “a terrible encounter with David Keyes.” Raice called Keyes a “predator.”

“The man had absolutely no conception of the word ‘no,’” she tweeted. “No matter how often I said no, he would not stop pushing himself on me. I was able to extricate myself quickly and it was a very brief and uncomfortable moment but I knew as I walked away I had encountered a predator.”

Raice told the New York Times on Thursday that in 2013 Keyes went out for coffee with her and then brought her to his apartment on the pretense of playing a song for her on the piano. But she says that when they got there, he started “mauling” her and “trying to bully and pressure me into having sex with him.”

The Times of Israel published that 10 other anonymous women alleged that Keyes had harassed them. The alleged incidents occurred while Keyes was living in New York and before he started working for Netanyahu. At that time, from 2012 to 2015, he was the director of Advancing Human Rights, which advocates for dissidents under authoritarian regimes.

One woman accused Keyes of kissing her against her will and trying to undress her, and said she had to forcibly extricate herself from the incident. Others accused Keyes of showing inappropriate videos in the office, and said he could not be left alone with female interns because he made them uncomfortable.

Keyes was also barred in 2013 from entering the Wall Street Journal opinion section’s offices without an appointment because women who worked there complained that he propositioned them, according to the New York Times. Bret Stephens, who was then the section’s deputy editor and is now a Times columnist, says he called Keyes a “disgrace to men” and a “disgrace as a Jew.”

Keyes denied the accusations, telling both JTA and The Times of Israel that “All of the accusations are deeply misleading and many of them are categorically false.” Keyes did not respond to a follow-up question asking which allegations are misleading and which are false.

But by Thursday, four Israeli lawmakers, including one from Netanyahu’s coalition government, asked the prime minister to suspend Keyes. On Thursday, Keyes took a leave from the position.

“I think Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to get involved,” Knesset member Merav Ben-Ari of the Kulanu party, a coalition partner, tweeted Thursday. “It isn’t right that a senior adviser would harass, you could say also obsess over, many women, and continue in his job as if nothing has happened.”

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