(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A group of Likud activists began an effort over the weekend to return former minister Silvan Shalom to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet following Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision late Thursday to close the investigation into allegations that Shalom had committed sex crimes.
In December 2015, as many as 11 women allegedly accused Shalom of sex crimes, leading to his resignation as interior minister, from the Knesset, and from politics. Mandelblit said he was closing the probe after the head of police intelligence told him that they either could not locate the complainants, the complainants denied the allegations, or they refused to come forward.
Veteran Likud activist Meir Halabi of Holon said he started the campaign because he knew Shalom for 35 years and his skills and leadership were needed during challenging times.
“There has been an outpouring of support for Silvan coming back,” Halabi said. “Silvan has so much to contribute to the country’s leadership. The file is closed and there is no reason for him not to come back.”
Shalom cannot legally return to the Knesset until the next election. But Netanyahu can reappoint him to the cabinet at any point, and there is a vacancy for a Likud minister, according to how the cabinet is divided among the parties in the coalition.
Halabi and the other organizer of the campaign, Likud Lev Hasharon branch head Arnon Mines, said the appropriate job for Shalom would be foreign minister, a portfolio currently held by Netanyahu in which Shalom served from 2003 to 2006. Halabi said Shalom as foreign minister would be an appointment that would be supported by a consensus in the Likud.
“Silvan was a terrific foreign minister,” Mines said. “Silvan is one of the pillars of the Likud, and he is talented and clean. For the real Likud to continue, we need Silvan sitting next to Bibi.”
Mines cited Shalom’s accomplishments getting the UN to approve an international Holocaust remembrance day, starting a medical school in Safed, and his initiative to extend the weekend by giving Sundays off.
Veteran Likud central committee member Shlomo Madmon said Shalom had succeeded in every post he has held, and “Netanyahu has an obligation out of responsibility for the country to take advantage of Shalom’s experience.”
Ashkelon Likud activist Eli Cornfeld said, “Silvan has contributed a lot to the party for many years, he is a leader, and everyone is being investigated nowadays anyway.” Cornfeld expressed concern that if Shalom did return, more women would complain against him.
Likud MK Miki Zohar, who personally congratulated Shalom for the file against him being closed at an event Thursday, said “Silvan is a good man who is fit to be in the country’s leadership, and I never thought otherwise, but it’s the prime minister’s decision.”
MK Oren Hazan said Shalom should be “more than welcome” back at the cabinet table.
“What they did to him was proven to be just gossip,” Hazan said. “The Likud is a big family and we support everyone and open our door to them. I hope Silvan will be able to continue helping the country.”
In the Likud faction, MK Miki Zohar, who personally congratulated Shalom for the file against him being closed at an event on Thursday, said "Silvan is a good man who is fit to be in the country's leadership, and I never thought otherwise, but it's the prime minister's decision."
MK Oren Hazan said Shalom should be "more than welcome" back at the cabinet table. "What they did to him was proven to be just gossip," Hazan said. "The Likud is a big family and we support everyone and open our door to them. I hope Silvan will be able to continue helping the country."