There are now seven women who claim Interior Minister Silvan Shalom has sexually harassed them, according to Channel 2 News, leading Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to examine the possibility of reopening the investigation against the minister.
Two women came forward on Thursday saying they were harassed by Shalom four and six years ago. Their testimony was unknown to the police a year and a half ago, when an investigation into Shalom over similar accusations was closed. The two do not wish to file an official complaint with the police.
According to one of the women, whose testimony was reported on Thursday by Israel Radio, Shalom attempted to forcibly kiss her during a work-related meeting. The same woman said that she is afraid to file a complaint against Shalom due to his powerful status.
Another testimony, reported by Haaretz on Thursday, alleges that Shalom attempted to force sexual intercourse on a woman who worked with him.
MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) called for Minister Shalom to suspend himself of his duties until the matter is resolved. "Seven complainants are something you can't just ignore," she said.
Members of Shalom's Likud party stayed generally silent as of Thursday. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon did not directly address the matter but said that "We must fight the exclusion of women, discrimination against them, and any attempts to harm them; we must seriously deal with the phenomenon of sexual harassment and the objectifying of women, and we must protect the victims from being attacked and accused."
Silvan Shalom was in hot water over similar allegations of sexual harrassment a year and a half ago, during his bid for the Israeli presidency. Police launched an investigation following a complaint filed by a woman against him, but the case was eventually closed. The woman worked in Shalom's office about 16 years ago, and she claimed that during that time he sexually abused her while taking advantage of his authority over her. Shalom responded by strongly denying that such incidents took place, and said that he did not remember the woman.
After the accusations made headlines, police received information from multiple sources, according to which Shalom had behaved in an inappropriate sexual manner towards other women as well. Each source spoke of a different woman, but they were all allegedly working for Shalom. At the time, the attorney general instructed the police to further the examination of these complaints, but in the end, the statute of limitations on one of the complaints had expired, and police findings about the others did not justify a continued investigation.
Weinstein is expected to instruct the police to launch an official examination into the newly-made accusations, but unless an official complaint is filed to the police by one of the women, it is unlikely this examination would lead to a criminal investigation.
Senior officials explained that the attorney general seeks to check if any new details have emerged that were previously unknown to authorities. If such details are found, there will be cause to reopen the case. If one of Shalom's accusers comes forth and files an official complaint with the police, Weinstein will have to allow a criminal investigation to commence.
"On the one hand, the attorney general cannot ignore the reports in the media on such a sensitive matter, especially in light of the demand by the head of the Meretz faction to open an investigation into the allegations," a senior official said on Thursday. "On the other hand, there's a rule of law in the State of Israel, and you can't launch investigations based solely on interviews with the media or posts on the internet."
Minister Shalom responded on Thursday by saying, "These things never happened. This is a recycling of claims and accusations that have no basis in reality."
Yuval Karni contributed to this report.