Israel interior minister quits over sex crime accusations

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 21 2015 08:06 AM

Silvan Shalom, pictured on December 11, 2015, is Quitting his posts as interior minister and vice-premier and leavin politics. Alberto Pizzoli, AFP

JERUSALEM - Israel's interior minister and vice-premier, Silvan Shalom, said Sunday he was quitting his posts and leaving politics over media reports of sexual harassment and indecent assault.

"Under these circumstances I have decided to resign from my position as minister and member of parliament," he said in a statement.

"My family is giving me full support but there is no justification for the price being exacted from it."

Israel's attorney-general instructed police to investigate the reports, said a justice ministry report issued after Shalom's announcement.

Israeli media, led by the left-leaning Haaretz, have reported multiple allegations by former members of Shalom's staff of sexual misconduct.

Last week, the paper reported that an ex-staffer accused the minister but did not lodge an official police complaint.

"The woman said that more than a decade ago, Shalom asked her to perform oral sex, abusing his authority over her. However, that case cannot be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations," the paper reported.

That same allegation surfaced last year as Shalom, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party, was tipped as a presidential candidate to succeed Shimon Peres.

Its resurrection has brought other complaints in its wake.

"Following the report," Haaretz wrote on Sunday, "several other women also alleged that the minister sexually assaulted them".

The Jerusalem Post reported that 11 women had alleged "inappropriate sexual advances toward them".

The English-language daily added that his seat in parliament would pass to Amir Ohana, whom it said would become the first "openly gay" Likud MP.

Israel has been plagued by many high-level sex cases, notably the December 2010 conviction of president Moshe Katsav for rape and sexual assault.

He started a seven-year prison sentence the following year.

In January 2015, attorney general Yehuda Weinstein urged the public not to lose faith in Israel's police force despite sex and sexual harassment scandals reaching as high as the deputy national commissioner, the chief of police in the occupied West Bank and the Jerusalem police chief.

Similar cases have blighted the army.