Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid showed full support for Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern of Yesh Atid on Monday, following Stern’s alleged boasting that he shredded anonymous complaints in the IDF and an accusation from a female soldier that he told her to keep quiet about her officer sexually harassing her.
Lapid said he spoke to Stern and accepted his denial that he shred complaints about sexual harassment. Yesh Atid has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and if Stern admitted to shredding documents alleging harassment, the party would have departed from him immediately, Lapid said.
Regarding the accusation against Stern, Lapid said he believed him and not his accuser, saying that Stern handled sexual harassment complaints with sensitivity throughout his career and that the quotes by the accuser attributed to Stern cannot be correct.
A video of a female soldier complaining that Stern prohibited her from following through with a sexual harassment complaint aired Sunday on Channel 13.
“I was a soldier in Bahad 1 [the IDF’s officer school] between ‘95-’97,” the soldier, who identified as G, said in the video in an electronically altered voice. “One of the NCOs tried to come on to me and sexually harass me,” she said. “We were in the room, me, MK Elazar Stern, my personal commander and the NCO who tried to harass me. And [Stern said] in these words, ‘If you talk about what went on in this room, if you mention what went on in this room or what the NCO tried to do, your days in the army will be dark and bitter. You will be the worst off in the entire world. You will no longer stay in the army.’”
Lapid called on the IDF to probe the allegations immediately, in order to enable Stern to defend his name.
MK Elazar Stern attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, on March 1, 2017 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
“There are no such things in the world,” Stern said in response to Channel 13’s query. “There is not one case that I know, and I am sure that there may be some now, that are made up. If you say that I summoned them into the room, both the harasser and him, then they did address the issue. Again, it could be that the incident was not handled well,” he said.
Stern added that he did not believe that he actually said those words to the soldier.
“The fact of the matter is that the incident was addressed. And I think the emphasis is on its treatment,” he said.
Stern’s office later issued an official response to the accusation.
“Complaints brought before Minister Stern were always dealt with,” the statement said. “Furthermore, the army has a protocol for these complaints,” referring to the fact that every unit has a person assigned to dealing with any gender-based issues, including complaints of sexual misconduct.
“[Stern] has always acted, and does so to this today, to curb the phenomenon of sexual harassment, and Stern does not remember this specific case,” the statement concluded.
In the past, Yesh Atid has departed from its politicians immediately when allegations were raised. MK Yaakov Peri was forced to quit before a television investigation accusing him of lying about his military record aired.
Stern will remain the candidate of Yesh Atid for chairman of the Jewish Agency.