(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and lawmakers on the Right and Left called for MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) to resign from the legislature amid accusations of sexual assault on Thursday.
The allegations against Slomiansky from as many as eight women involve touching and kissing them against their will, including in the Knesset.
Slomiansky denied the charges, saying that he does not know who complained about him, but that he feels “deep sorrow and pain” that anyone feels hurt by him.
Neither police nor the Justice Ministry would confirm a Channel 2 report that an inquiry was opened into the allegations, despite the fact that none of Slomiansky’s accusers would file a complaint to the police. A Bayit Yehudi source said should it come to a criminal investigation, Slomiansky plans to enter the interrogation room as an MK.
“I have been a public servant for over 40 years. For 40 years, I met tens of thousands of men and women and helped them. I am known in many communities as a man who is always willing to help, at every hour of the day, and as a warm and heartfelt man, and as is accepted in Israeli politics, I give hugs and shake hands or hold an elbow, without any sexual, romantic or harmful intention,” he said.
Slomiansky continued: “I found out from different people that they received information from respectable women who heard from other women that they were hurt by me. I am pained and am very sorry about that. I never intended to hurt any man or woman, and if any woman was insulted, hurt or felt uncomfortable because of my behavior, I apologize and I would apologize to her face, from the bottom of my heart, if I knew who she was.”
Two weeks ago, Bayit Yehudi activist and former primary contestant Chagit Moriah-Gibor posted on a religious women’s Facebook group that there is a “roaring silence” about “a serving MK who assaults and has assaulted women for years.” Army Radio reported Thursday morning that the MK in question is Slomiansky and that after a group of rabbis, led by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, spoke to him, he planned to resign from the chairmanship of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
Soon after Slomiansky’s denial, Edelstein said the MK should resign from the Knesset.
“I call on Nissan Slomiansky to clarify these matters outside of the Knesset’s walls,” he told Army Radio. “That means, I think, to suspend himself [from the legislature] or quit, as he chooses. I say these things with pain. I usually hold back and don’t decide these things.”
An MK cannot be removed from office unless he is convicted of a crime with moral turpitude or, in a law passed this year under Slomiansky’s leadership, if 90 MKs vote to impeach him on grounds of inciting racism or violence or supporting armed conflict against Israel.
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said Slomiansky only has to resign from the Knesset if the alleged victims go to the police with their complaints and they turn out to be true.
Bennett also urged anyone who felt that he or she had been a victim of sexual misconduct to go to the authorities, “despite the sensitivity.”
However, Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Shuli Moalem-Refaeli said Slomiansky must remove himself from work in the Knesset while things are investigated.
“There is no place for harassers in public leadership,” she said on Israel Radio. “There is too big a gap between his message and the women’s testimony. This is a difficult morning, because he is a friend and a public servant, but he must remove himself.”
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) said he supports the rabbis’ decision, trusts them and stands behind their findings.
Meretz MKs Zehava Gal-On, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg said that “harming women is not a public service. Slomiansky’s public service does not clear him from the testimony of women he allegedly harmed in the Knesset and outside of it. We call on him to take responsibility for his actions and resign from the Knesset immediately. If he does not do so, his party leader, the education minister, must stand with the women and our clear call.”
MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union), who had a notoriously antagonistic relationship with Slomiansky when he was chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, said his behavior is a form of corruption.
“Slomiansky must resign immediately. Bayit Yehudi’s leadership must engage in deep introspection. There is no room in the Knesset for people who use power they received from the public to hurt women,” she said.
Last year, then-MK Yinon Magal of Bayit Yehudi resigned after allegations of sexual harassment and assault came to light. The State Attorney’s Office closed the case against him months later, saying it did not warrant an indictment.