The accusations of sexual harrassment levelled at veteran Israeli politician Silvan Shalom are "surreal", those close to the energy and water minister said Monday. They were, however, "cautiously optimistic" about the dismissal of the claims.
Writing on Facebook, Shalom's stepson Nimrod Nir said that his father can't technically defend himself against allegations that are 15 years old.
Nir described Shalom as a dedicated public servant, and questioned the timing of the claims, given that his father was about to officially announce his candidacy for president.
"This man has been a public servant for more than 20 years, who has held various senior positions, has never been investigated or charged with anything, and is a devoted father of five," said Nir.
The Attorney General's Office has confirmed that it received the complaint a week ago. In recent days, Attorney General
Yehuda Weinstein has held consultations with State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nezri and other senior officials from the State Prosecution and Israel Police, to discuss the statute of limitation on the alleged offenses, and how to proceed with the investigation.
According to the allegations by a former secretary in Shalom's office, she was alone in a hotel room with the Likud politician when he, clad only in a bathrobe, asked her to sit next to him.
The accuser was given two different polygraph tests. In the first test, in which she was not asked about any sexual contact with Shalom, she was found telling the truth. In the second one, in which she was asked about sexual contact with him, she gave inconclusive answers and was found to have a tendency to lie.
The statute of limitations could have an impact on the outcome of the allegations. Miriam Rosenthal, a former Tel Aviv district attorney, told Ynet that sexual offenses (except those involving minors) have a 10-year shelf life in cases such as rape, while sexual harassment charges can only be brought for several years, depending on the offense. This stems, Rosenthal says, from the difficulty in proving someone's guilt or innocence after many years. Hoewever, she says, the attorney general and police cannot ignore a complaint against a senior minister, even it the statue of limitation applies here.
As in the case of former president Moshe Katzav who is currently serving jail time for rape, an investigation into complaints that have passed the Statute of Limitation led to new complaints, which reinforced the original allegations.