Silvan Shalom, a senior government minister who is being accused of sexually harassing a female employee 15 years ago, issued a strong denial on Monday evening, saying the allegations amount to “political assassination.”
The Justice Ministry and police confirmed on Monday that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, alongside State Attorney Shai Nitzan and other top police and ministry officials, launched a preliminary probe to check the credibility of the allegations of sexual offenses committed years ago, reportedly by Shalom.
Police said that at the moment the probe is not on the level of an official investigation and that Shalom, national infrastructure, energy and water minister, has not been called in for questioning.
The complainant is a woman who worked for Shalom’s office 15 years ago when he served as science and technology minster.
In an interview with Army Radio she said that the alleged incident took place in Shalom’s hotel room during a stay in Jerusalem.
According to the interview, Shalom was in a bathrobe, sitting on his bed in the hotel room when he told the woman: “You are going to change my life.”
“This is a political assassination,” Channel 2 quoted the minister as saying in response to the accusations. “I have no idea what they’re talking about, I have never heard this woman’s name in my life.”
The maximum statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual offenses is 10 years.
It is unclear whether the complaint could lead to any official criminal investigation or indictment against Shalom, unless other complainants can be found with more recent allegations, which some reports indicated the police were seeking.
Depending on Weinstein’s findings from the preliminary examination, he will decide whether to launch a criminal investigation or close the matter.
There were also reports about the complainant having had mixed performances on polygraph tests relating to the incident.
Nimrod Nir, Shalom’s stepson, published on his Facebook page a statement calling the allegations a “false campaign” and implying that political opponents were behind it.
Sources close to Shalom expressed cautious optimism that he will emerge unscathed from the incident, which comes at a time when his name has been discussed in the list of candidates for president.
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) reacted to the report of the investigation on her Facebook page.
“Senior minister or no senior minister, whether it happened or did not happen – the statute of limitations should never be a barrier when it comes to sexual offenses. Even if in the eyes of the law the offense is not relevant after 15 years, for the complainants it is a painful and inseparable part of their lives.”
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel issued a statement on Monday and said: “Sadly, we see behavior that repeats itself every time a woman gathers the courage and complains about a man who sexually abused her, especially when it is a senior [official] or famous person.
Even in this case, immediately after the news broke, she [the complainant] is shown in a negative light, her name is vilified all while completely ignoring the attack she underwent.”