Scandal in the presidential race
Hebrew media review

Scandal in the presidential race

Silvan Shalom is named as the senior minister accused of sexual misconduct, and Foreign Ministry says population transfer kosher

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Silvan Shalom (photo credit: FLASH90)
Silvan Shalom (photo credit: FLASH90)

Scandal rocks the Israeli press as the papers on Tuesday name the senior minister implicated in allegations of sexual misconduct. A day before, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom was fingered as the man under investigation for the charges.

Israel Hayom interviews the lady at the center of the scandal — identified only by the letter M — whom it identifies as a 45-year-old mother who runs a tourism business and who’s been in touch with the police for the past several days.

“I decided to drop the bomb on the issue because of Silvan’s running for the presidency. I don’t want anything from him, I have no issue with him, only it’s not fitting that he enter the President’s Residence,” she told the paper. She said she didn’t want a repeat of former president Moshe Katsav, who was convicted in 2010 and imprisoned in 2012 for sexually molesting a subordinate.

Concerning the more sordid details of the charges against Shalom, Yedioth Ahronoth provides a slew of details of the case. M, it says, worked under Shalom in 1998 when the latter was science minister. According to the complaint filed against the Likud minister, he sexually assaulted M at a Jerusalem hotel. The paper quotes Shalom denying the charges, saying it was “a political ploy aimed at eliminating my election as president.”

Haaretz clarifies that there is a 10-year statute of limitations on sexual assault charges, but notes that the police and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein are investigating the possibility of others who might lodge complaints against the presidential hopeful. The paper reports that Shalom’s family and acquaintances accused political sources of a conspiracy aimed at knocking him out of the running for president.

“[Netflix TV series] House of Cards is nothing compared to Israeli politics, such as a wheeling-dealing politician who tries to take down his political rival with [charges of] rape,” the paper quotes Nimrod Nir, Shalom’s wife’s son, on Facebook. Haaretz’s cartoon shows Shalom ahead of the pack in a footrace for the presidency, but a woman wielding a frying pan is just behind him.

Haaretz's editorial cartoon on March 25, 2014. (screen capture: Haaretz)
Haaretz’s editorial cartoon on March 25, 2014. (screen capture: Haaretz)

Moti Tuchfeld writes in Israel Hayom that the scandal rattling Shalom’s presidential aspirations could either ruin his chances or confirm him as President Shimon Peres’s successor. 

“If there are any further complaints against him, Silvan Shalom can kiss the presidency goodbye. However, if this remains a single complaint by one woman, his presidential run is only beginning,” he says. If the charges against him are dropped, he’ll continue his run for the presidency, and if rumors are true that someone conspired to ruin him, “it will be no surprise if the attempt to bury him only revives him, and if his gravediggers are ultimately the ones to find themselves inside the coffin,” Tuchfeld writes.

Haaretz reports that the Foreign Ministry formulated a document in which it determined that a population swap would be legal as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. The classified legal opinion said that it would be within the limits of international law to transfer the predominantly Arab area of central Israel known as “the Triangle” to a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.

According to the paper, the drafters of the Foreign Ministry document said a redrawing of the lines so that the residents of the Triangle were part of a Palestinian state would comply with international law on condition the Palestinians consented to the move, none of the population was left without citizenship, and a means of compensating people was put in place. Haaretz notes that the issue of population transfer has been a central point for Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who told foreign diplomats earlier this year that any final agreement would require “sorting out the issue of Israeli Arabs.”

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the Israeli government has pitched a compromise position for the upcoming Palestinian prisoner release to American chief negotiator Martin Indyk. It says that while Israel refuses to comply with the Palestinian demand that it release Arab Israelis convicted of terrorism, it has offered to release Palestinian terrorists who committed their crimes before the Oslo Accords, but were only arrested and convicted afterwards.

Yedioth quotes government officials saying it was doubtful whether the fourth and final wave of prisoners would be released this weekend, on March 28, as planned, They said that if the Palestinians and Israelis reach a deal on the fourth release, it would only take place on April 1 at earliest.

Shaul Arieli writes in Haaretz that the long-anticipated framework agreement is likely to include one of three scenarios. First, the few items both sides have agreed upon thus far, and a vague basis for continued talks. Second, agreements on non-core issues such as water and transportation, “squished into the benefits package for the Palestinians, which on one hand will let them justify the continued negotiations, and on the other hand will not harm the stability of the Israeli government.” Or third, a full and detailed American outline of all the core issues, including the demand that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accept a demilitarized state, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accede to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines with 1:1 land swaps.

Whatever the outcome, he writes that “any framework agreement that is not decisive will add [US Secretary of State] John Kerry’s mission to the parade of American failures, from the Oslo Accords until today.”

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