(JTA) – Israel’s ambassador to the United States was warned about sexual misconduct allegations against David Keyes, the prime minister’s spokesperson, but chose not to pass on the information to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Keyes took a leave of absence Thursday from his position as spokesperson for Benjamin Netanyahu after a number of women accused him of sexual misconduct. The allegations date back to at least 2013, when Keyes headed a human rights organization in New York.
That year, Keyes was barred 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. In addition to establishing that arrangement for Keyes, Bret Stephens, then the section’s deputy editor and now a Times columnist, said he called Keyes a “disgrace to men” and a “disgrace as a Jew.”
Stephens told The Times that in November 2016, as Wall Street Journal reporters started investigating the allegations, he warned Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer that Keyes posed a risk. Keyes had been appointed Netanyahu’s spokesperson earlier that year.
On Friday, Dermer acknowledged the conversation with Stephens but said he did not pass on the information to the Prime Minister’s Office because Keyes’ behaviour did not constitute criminal conduct.
“The ambassador received a phone call from Bret Stephens over half a year after David Keyes entered his role in the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the conduct attributed to Keyes before he joined the office,” a statement from Dermer read. “Information about the conversation was not provided to the Prime Minister’s Office. If Stephens or anyone else had given the ambassador information about sexual assault or any other criminal act committed against women by anybody in the Prime Minister’s Office, whether they occurred before the person entered the position or after, he would have immediately informed the Prime Minister’s Office.”
The Times also reported that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish think tank influential on Iran policy, changed its by-laws in 2014 due to Keyes’ behaviour. The foundation said it restricted visitors from roaming the office freely after Keyes propositioned two female employees.