In the second case in which an Israeli either serving as, or running for president has been accused of sexual harassment, Israel’s News1 reveals that senior minister Silvan Shalom is being accused of engaging in a sex act with a subordinate in 1999. At the time, he was minister of science and technology. Shalom is currently minister of industry, energy and water. In the previous government, he was a deputy prime minister. He is a senior leader of the Likud Party and widely seen as a competitor for party leadership when Bibi Netanyahu leaves the scene.
In 1993, Shalom married Judy Mozes, one of Israel’s wealthiest women. Their net worth makes him by far the wealthiest Israeli politician. They are truly what Israel would call a power couple if Hebrew had such a term. Mozes is known as Israel’s Marie Antoinette. She is a member of the 1% and prides herself on it. Her brother owns a controlling interest in Yediot Achronot and her sister holds a controlling interest in El Al. They are known as one of the wealthiest eighteen families which control an extraordinary amount of the nation’s capital. There’s a rumor afoot that Judy’s taken away hubby’s allowance! That might help keep him on the reservation!
About five years ago, then-President Moshe Katsav was also accused by several employees of engaging in sex acts and even rape. After he was offered a deal that involved his resignation in return for a suspended sentence, he refused the deal and went to trial. He lost and is still serving a prison term. Though it will be difficult to prove a crime in a case that is so old (and in which the statute of limitations may’ve passed), Israeli MKs may not wish to chance another sex scandal rocking the Israeli presidency so soon after Katsav.
There is another phenomenon working in favor of Shalom in this case. Israeli police do a terrible job of investigating rape cases. They don’t like to bring them. They don’t like prosecuting men for rape. They like even less prosecuting wealthy, powerful men. They tend to disbelieve the victims. It’s highly doubtful even with good evidence that the victim in this alleged case would find justice.
Israel is still a good old boys club when it comes to sexual violence against women. The newspapers are filled with stories of women murdered by husbands despite the police knowing of the deadly threat to the victim. In one recent case, a man groped multiple women in a McDonald’s including a 12 year old girl. Despite seven calls to the local police by witnesses, they took 75 minutes to arrive, and then blamed the delay on a Purim party hosted at the station house by the national police commissioner. The commissioner had long left the party by the time the first call arrived.
That’s why it’s important that the media do its job. In the case of Israeli ambassador to Norway, Naim Araidi, it refused to do its job and no one in Israel knows that he engaged in sex acts in the embassy and official residence with his staff. He was allowed to return home and resign his diplomatic post in quiet.
At least in the present case, News1 has reported Shalom’s name and the rest of the media will presumably be able to follow suit and bring the matter to the attention of the Israeli public. In numerous cases, the defendant in sex harassment cases gets a gag order preventing the media from reporting his identity. It’s surprising this hasn’t happened here, given Shalom and Mozes’ prominence.
Forbes Israel published a 2011 article revealing Shalom’s $40-million net worth. Forbes doesn’t put its articles online. But when two other online Israeli publications wrote stories about the Forbes article, he threatened a suit and the published articles disappeared. Yours truly retained copies of them here.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.