Israeli settler leader accused of sexual assault steps down

Israeli settler leader accused of sexual assault steps down
The chairman of the Gush Etzion regional council has resigned after Israeli media revealed he paid hush money to a woman who accused him of sexual harassment.
2 min read
28 October, 2016
The accused settlement leader has admitted to paying hush money but denies the crime [AFP]

An Israeli settlement leader has resigned after being accused of sexual harassment and paying hush money to the accuser.

Gush Etzion Regional Council Chairman David Perl had sent a letter to the Israeli press, ending his tenure following reports that he allegedly sexually harassed a woman and then paid hush money to her, Haaretz reported on Friday.

The allegations were first revealed by Channel 10 in September who reported that a woman had levelled a complaint against Perl to the Takana Forum.

The forum is Jerusalem-based rabbinic organisation focused on crimes of a "sexual nature" that has been criticised in the past for settling matters "in house" rather than pursuing cases.

Channel 10 also reported that Takana had made a deal with Perl in which the settler leader agreed to pay his accuser "hundreds of thousands of shekels" not to run for re-election. In return, his accuser is said to have agreed not to file a police complaint against Perl.

After the story broke, protests from settlers in Gush Etzion broke out. It led to the local council appointing an investigation committee into the affair but they decided that Perl should not be removed from office.

However, due to public pressure, Perl stepped down.

"After much thought and deliberation, I've decided to end my term as council chairman," Perl said in a statement on Friday. 

"This decision is not simple at all in light of the commitment I undertook to faithfully serve you, as well as the broad support I received from you recently and in light of the decisions by the council and the examination committee."

Perl has admitted that he paid his accuser hush money but maintains his innocence with regards to the sexual assault allegation.

The investigative committee appointed to uncover the truth behind the matter notably did not hold interviews with the complainant.

Perl is set to be succeeded by his deputy, Moshe Seville.