Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided to close the case of alleged sexual harassment against Jewish Home lawmaker Nissan Slomiansky because of insufficient evidence, a statement issued Sunday said.
Only two of around 20 women who had worked with him and claimed they had been victims of Slomiansky’s advances agreed to give testimony to the police, and one of them changed her mind once an initial probe was upgraded to a full-blown police investigation in May on Mandelblit’s orders.
The district and state prosecutors’ offices therefore concluded that it would be difficult to prove a case in court and had recommended that the case be shelved — a recommendation the attorney general’s office accepted, the statement said.
Claims against Slomiansky first drew media attention last December, after a Jewish Home activist went public with sexual misconduct allegations on Facebook.
Chagit Moriah-Gibor, who said she knew several of the victims, posted a public appeal for other women to step forward, saying none of them was willing to lodge an official complaint.
Of the two who agreed to give evidence, one said that during the years 2015 and 2016, while she was trying to advance a public issue with Slomiansky’s help, the latter had told her that if she wanted to talk to him, she had to meet him outside of the office, in private. After one meeting of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which Slomiansky chairs, he had — she said — pressed her hand for a long time and told her that if there had been no cameras around, he would have kissed her.
The second complainant who gave testimony to the police focused on the years 2014 and 2015 when Slomiansky chaired the Knesset Finance Committee.
She said that on several occasions, the MK had met her, either in the corridors or in the elevator, and hugged her close, tried to kiss her, and in the end, given her a kiss on the cheek as she turned her face away from him. On once occasion, while she was in his office, he hugged her, kissed her on the cheek and complimented her appearance.
But after an official investigation had been launched in May, the second complainant failed to turn up for further questioning and for a head to head confrontation with her alleged harasser.
In the meantime, Slomiansky denied any sexual intention in his acts, said “friendly hugs” were acceptable at the Knesset and insisted that he was a warm person and that his hugs were innocent.
After Mandelblit’s announcement, Moriah-Gibor posted on Facebook that the women whom Slomiansky allegedly harmed had concluded that “the price they understood would be demanded of them, their children, and their family members was too heavy.”
“I can not help but wonder what would have happened if, instead of the automatic renunciation of responsibility, the aggressive attack, the sweeping denial, the various accusations about motives and even the embarrassing silence of the leadership of Jewish Home and the leaders of religious Zionism (among whom Nissan has great power) — if, instead of all of that, there had been responses that were supportive, believing, attentive and resolutely against the phenomenon, these would have contributed to a feeling of security among those harmed and would maybe have helped them to decide differently about complaining,” she wrote.
Most of the women who complained in various forums are religiously observant and maintain a strict no-contact rule with men other than their husbands. Among the testimonies were also claims of alleged indecent assault and exploitation by Slomiansky of his position of authority.
Many of the alleged acts were said to have been committed inside the Knesset, in Slomiansky’s private office or in committee rooms.
In December, a group of religious-Zionist rabbis and representatives of an organization that deals with sex crimes in the community reviewed the allegations against Slomiansky. They subsequently summoned him to a meeting and asked him to resign from the Knesset. The lawmaker denied the allegations and refused to comply, although later he admitted that he had touched women on the elbow and said his “well-known loving nature may have been misinterpreted,” Army Radio reported at the time.
That month, Slomiansky announced he was temporarily recusing himself from his position as chairman of the influential Knesset Law, Justice and Constitution Committee, while a preliminary police probe into the complaints was underway.
He returned to chair the Law Committee in June.
Reports in December said rumors of inappropriate behavior by Slomiansky surfaced before the last election in March 2015. In the weeks before the vote, the party chiefs were informed of the allegations by women who had worked with him in the past. However, senior party officials were unable to convince any of the women to file a complaint with police.
The Jewish Home party has previously faced allegations of sexual harassment by its lawmakers. In November 2015, Yinon Magal resigned from the Knesset over sexual harassment claims. In February 2016, the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office announced it would halt the probe into Magal, after police said they did not have enough evidence to recommend an indictment.