Interior Minister's Former Employee: 'He Touched Me Against My Will'

Story was brought to police's attention, but woman refused to file complaint; Minister Silvan Shalom: 'Recycling of old claims without basis.'

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Vice Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Silvan Shalom delivers his speech at the Mediterranean Dialogues Conference Forum, in Rome, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015.
Vice Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Silvan Shalom delivers his speech at the Mediterranean Dialogues Conference Forum, in Rome, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. Credit: AP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

A woman who once worked for Interior Minister Silvan Shalom has accused him of repeated harassment, touching intimate parts of her body and attempts to insert his hands into her underwear. But while the woman’s story, which describes harassment that she claims continued for over a year, was brought to the police’s attention, she has refused to file a formal complaint against him.

Shalom responded that the woman’s claims were “groundless,” but a number of female lawmakers from the opposition have urged legal authorities to open an investigation into the minister, who has faced similar allegations in the past.

Both the police and the attorney general’s office were very interested in the woman’s story and contacted her several times in an effort to persuade her to testify. She told the police that she had given close friends detailed accounts of the incidents of inappropriate touching shortly after they happened.

Despite her refusal to file a complaint, she agreed to tell the police her version of what was done to her – actions on which the statute of limitations hasn’t yet lapsed. Haaretz is reporting her story as she told it to the police.

The former employee said that Shalom touched intimate parts of her body many times, although she pushed him away and clearly resisted him. She also described instances when they were sitting together in the back seat of a car and Shalom tried to insert his fingers into her panties and touch her sexual organs, but she was dressed in a manner that prevented him from doing so.

She said Shalom’s efforts to touch her took place both in the workplace and, frequently, when the two were outside the office, including at hotels.

The employee said the times when they were together away from the office were a nightmare. On these occasions, she said, Shalom would summon her to his room and try to touch her intimate organs, while she pushed him away forcefully and asked him to stop. She also said that when she returned to the office after these experiences in hotels, she would become physically ill and be absent for several days.

She said that when she had to be out of the office with Shalom for a significant amount of time, she would ask another worker to join them, so that she would be alone with Shalom as little as possible.

The woman said she never had sexual relations with Shalom and never agreed to let him touch her. She added that each time she asked him to stop, he did so immediately, but then afterward, he would try to touch her again.

When she asked him why he was acting this way and pleaded with him to stop, he would respond that it was nonsense, she said. She described the minister as repulsive and an animal, but said she has no desire to take revenge on him and has no great wish for him to sit in jail because of her.

When she told her story to the police, they made it clear that she was liable to be asked why she continued working for Shalom for such a long time, and why she bought him a present when she left her job. She explained that she continued to work with him because she really loved her job – until she could no longer tolerate the suffering it caused her and decided to quit in order to get away from him.

In wake of Haaretz's report, Meretz lawmakers Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg urged Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to instruct the police to call Shalom in for questioning.

"Recent reports paint a concerning and severe picture of recurring harassment, including psychical sexual imposition and a serious abuse of authority. According to the law, an investigation is warranted even if no complaint has been lodged," they wrote, urging the police to open an investigation.

Recurring claims

The employee’s story was preceded by a complaint by another woman who had worked under Shalom at a different time. In an interview with Army Radio, this woman said, “I arrived at the hotel and entered his room. He was sitting on the far bed and asked me to come and sit next to him. He told me that I was about to change his life. I said: What does that mean? I went to the bathroom and when I came out he was no longer on the same bed. There was another room, and he was sitting there with his legs crossed wearing a dressing gown. He told me: Come and join me. I was very frightened. I had such an uncomfortable feeling.”

The woman added that Shalom later undressed and asked her to perform oral sex on him. She said she agreed, and then left the room. Testimony given to the attorney general’s office indicated that she left her job in Shalom’s office several weeks after this incident.

The woman who gave the interview to Army Radio did decide to complain, despite the fact that the statute of limitations on the minister’s alleged acts had already lapsed. Journalist Gidi Weitz subsequently reported in Haaretz that Attorney General Weinstein thought that if the incident had taken place in the last few years, Shalom would probably have stood trial.

Weinstein said this woman’s testimony bore the hallmarks of truth: She didn’t exaggerate the details, she gave information that was detrimental to her own image – such as her agreement to perform the act – and she told a girlfriend about the incident in real time.

Shalom, for his part, said he did not remember the complainant and denied her story.

In May 2014, Weinstein decided to adopt the opinion of the State Prosecutor’s Office, that there was no point in continuing to investigate the allegations against Shalom. Weinstein explained that a police investigation of these allegations had concluded in some cases, they had been refuted; in others, either the women in question couldn’t be found or they couldn’t be reached; and in still others, the women refused to give testimony to the police.

A statement to Haaretz on Shalom’s behalf said, “This is a recycling of groundless claims. The subject was investigated thoroughly in the past by the law enforcement agencies and, at the attorney general’s decision, which was made with the consent of the police and prosecution, the whole matter came to nothing.”

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