The charges that National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom harassed a female employee 15 years ago sent shock waves through the political arena Monday, days ahead of his expected announcement that he would run for president.
Shalom had already decided to run, but he delayed the formal declaration of his candidacy, perhaps because there were rumors about the charges. He reportedly had a lengthy, positive conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about his candidacy Thursday.
Sources close to Shalom expressed confidence that the scandal would be over before the deadline to enter the race. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will not set a date for the contest until the Knesset returns from its extended Passover recess on May 12.
The final date to enter the race must be after that. The Knesset will elect a replacement for President Shimon Peres by secret ballot to be held between the end of May and the end of June.
Sources close to Shalom blamed his Likud rival for the presidency, former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, for the charges.
Rivlin’s office vigorously denied any connection.
“Rivlin hopes the episode will be found to be baseless and will end for the better of everyone involved,” his office said.
Another candidate said it was “suspect that the accusations came out only now,” just ahead of the race. All other candidates declined to comment, even off record.
Former president Moshe Katsav’s ex-spokeswoman Odelia Karmon, who faced a similar incident with him and helped lead to his conviction, said she also thought the timing of the announcement was unfair. She called upon the complainant to reveal herself to the public and confront Shalom.
“She knew that due to the statute of limitations, her case has no chance in court, so she should come out personally and challenge him if she is going to spill his blood,” she said. “As someone who went through this, I understand her pain and why she waited so long. But her behavior is still very problematic.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.