A nother woman on Sunday accused Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal of sexual harassment, according to Channel 2, which reported that she was the fourth to level such accusations against him.
The woman, who was not identified, had worked with Magal, but not during his tenure as editor-in-chief at the Walla news website, when the three other alleged acts of harassment took place. She said she ran into Magal some two years ago, and the now-lawmaker forcibly kissed her, leaving her “stunned,” the report said.
The woman said she didn’t complain at the time, because she feared public backlash. However, once several other women stepped forward to testify against Magal, the woman said she decided to do so as well.
The Israel Police said Wednesday that it was launching an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct after two women claimed that Magal made advances toward them during and after his period at Walla. Magal stepped down as the popular site’s editor in late 2014 in order to run for Knesset.
Senior police officials said they believed Magal would be questioned in the coming days, the Ynet news site reported.
The first public allegations surfaced on Tuesday morning, in a Facebook post by Walla reporter Racheli Rottner, who said Magal had made lewd comments and advances toward her at his farewell party, shortly before he entered politics. Hours later, Walla reporter Or Shukran also took to Facebook and accused Magal of “repeatedly stroking my behind, even after I asked him to stop,” an act that could be considered sexual assault. While Channel 2 reported Sunday that the woman who approached police on Sunday was the fourth to do so, the identity of the third woman wasn’t immediately clear.
The probe into the allegations was launched by the high-level task force Lahav 433, the Israel Police said in a statement.
A source told Ynet that Magal would be questioned under caution if the police receive formal complaints against him. In the absence of formal accusations, investigators will determine whether a case can be built — based on any testimonies they collect — before submitting a request to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to question Magal.
As a serving Knesset member, Magal enjoys immunity from “searches, detention, criminal hearings and legal proceedings that are not connected to his work as a member of Knesset,” — an immunity that only the Knesset itself can lift. A lawmaker can also choose to forgo his or her immunity.
Magal initially responded to the charges with his own Facebook post, saying that he had made inappropriate comments, but would have expected friends to raise their concerns with him directly, rather than “shame” him in public. He later acknowledged “misconduct,” without going into details.
He resigned Tuesday night from his position as Jewish Home’s Knesset faction chairman, a role comparable to the party’s parliamentary whip, after a meeting with the party’s chief, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, to discuss the accusations against him.
“I made a mistake in my past conduct, which is even more unbecoming for the public official I am today,” Magal said in his statement Wednesday. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart to those who were hurt. I am determined to correct my behavior and also to repair things on the personal and family level.”
Magal told Bennett that none of the accusations against him constituted criminal offenses, and that the things he said to female employees were said in a “different spirit” from the way in which they were being represented.