David Keyes, the foreign press spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has left his post after several women this week accused him of sexual assault or harassment.
The first accusation was made by Julia Salazar, a Democratic candidate for the New York state Senate who on Tuesday acknowledged being the author of an earlier anonymous post saying Keyes forced her to perform oral sex on him after meeting to discuss Middle East politics in 2013.
Hours later, Shayndi Raice, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, tweeted that she survived a “terrible encounter” with Keyes and called him a “predator” whose “mistreatment of women” is an “open secret.”
“The man had absolutely no conception of the word ‘no,’ ” she wrote.
Keyes issued a statement calling the accusation by Salazar “yet another example of her dishonesty,” a reference to recent doubts about her claims to be working class, Jewish, an immigrant and a graduate of Columbia University, which has said she never earned a degree there. He did not address the claim by Raice.
The next day, the Times of Israel reported that 10 more women — whom it did not name — accused Keyes of assault or aggressive behavior. The report said he had written letters to six of them apologizing for “being less than gentlemanly.”
Israel’s Channel 10 news reported similar accusations from two more women, whose identities were also shielded.
All of those women told the news outlets that the misconduct by Keyes occurred before his 2016 appointment to Netanyahu’s team.
On Thursday, Keyes met with Netanyahu and announced afterward that he was taking a break.
“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,” he said in a statement. “I am fully confident that the truth will come out.”
He is not expected to return to his post.
Keyes, who is 34 and originally from Los Angeles, has been the principal advocate of Netanyahu’s controversial media strategy of circumventing traditional outlets by posting short videos on official social media accounts to broadcast Israel’s message.
Tarnopolsky is a special correspondent.