Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Wednesday announced his decision to close the sexual misconduct case against Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom and not to open a full criminal investigation against him.
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Both Israel Police and the State Prosecution Office recommended closing the probe against Shalom due to lack of evidence, the fact that the statute of limitations expired for the original complainant and that no other women were willing to come forward.
"The examination of the information by Israel Police indicated that some of it is denied, some does not allow locating or approaching the women it describes, and some of it leads to women who refuse to testify to police," a statement issued by Weinstein said.
Contrary to the prosecution's position, last week Weinstein asked the police to supplement the investigation in an effort to persuade some of Shalom's alleged victims to come forward and win their cooperation. The State Prosecution's Office maintained that the evidence gathered does not justify pressing formal charges.
"In light of the probe efforts and the lack of the ability to make progress, the examination has been exhausted," the prosecution said. It added that because of the statute of limitations, which is 10 years for the alleged offense, even if enough evidence would have been found it could not be used in trial.
Shalom was questioned under caution on allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of authority against a woman who worked for him 15 years ago. The police said that it does not suspect that the complainant was sent by political agents wishing to harm Shalom's career.
Shalom is seen as a candidate for Israel's presidency, but he refused Wednesday morning to comment if he would still run. His close associates also said they don't intend to speculate whether he would submit his official candidacy. However, some Knesset members said it would be better if Shalom stay out of the race.
"The investigation into Silvan was closed because women refused to complain about him, not because he was found innocent of any crime," said one MK. Asking to remain anonymous, he said, "the president must be clean of any stain, especially after the embarrassing term of Moshe Katzav. It seems to me that in this day and age between Katzav's conviction and Olmert's conviction MKs should be careful about choosing Citizen No. 1."
Even if he joins the race, he'll be in a crowded field. Former Knesset speaker, MK Reuven Rivlin, announced he would run to the end even if Likud or the prime minister does not endorse him. Shalom and Rivlin running together could split the right and the Likud about who to endorse, which could weaken the chance of either being elected and lead to a non-Likudnik getting elected, according to a Likud MK.
"Were Silvan and Ruby to run, there will surely be a second round," said the MK. "The fight between them will be a question of which of them will make it to the second round against someone else, be it Benjamin Ben Eliezer, Dalia Itzik, Dan Shechtman or Dalia Dorner."
The sexual misconduct complaint was filed on March 16. The complainant claims that Shalom asked her to bring him some work documents to the Jerusalem hotel where he was spending the night. When the minister opened the door to his room, he was dressed only in a robe. While they were sitting together in the room, the complainant alleged, the minister began making sexual suggestions.
According to the complainant, she went to the bathroom to escape the uncomfortable situation in the room. When she re-entered the room, the minister was lying naked on the bed. She made various excuses to avoid his request that she have sex with him, but acceded out of fear to his request that she perform oral sex on him. After that, she left the room.
Shalom denied the incident occurred and told investigators that he has does not remember the complainant.
After the case was made public police received information about other women who may have been victimized by the minister. Weinstein ordered the police to expand their inquiry, but no other formal complaints were filed.