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Ex-Labor MK says Shimon Peres sexually assaulted her in the 1980s

Colette Avital, a former senior diplomat, alleges the late statesman forcibly kissed her during a work meeting while he was PM, assaulted her at Paris hotel several years earlier

Then-consul general to New York Colette Avital looks on as then-foreign minister Shimon Peres addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, on May 23, 1994, in New York. (AP Photo/David Karp)
Then-consul general to New York Colette Avital looks on as then-foreign minister Shimon Peres addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, on May 23, 1994, in New York. (AP Photo/David Karp)

Colette Avital, a former Labor member of Knesset and a former Israeli consul-general to New York, alleged that the late president Shimon Peres sexually assaulted her twice in the 1980s, including one time when he was prime minister.

In an interview in the Haaretz newspaper published Thursday, Avital said she was summoned to Peres’s office, while he was serving as prime minister in 1984. The pair discussed potential jobs she could hold in his administration after her return as a diplomat stationed in Paris.

As she got up to leave, Avital told Haaretz, “he pressed me against the door suddenly and tried to kiss me.” Avital said she pushed him away and left the room, “and my legs were shaking when I left there, it repulsed me.”

The former MK, who worked closely with Peres for many years afterward, said however that for two years following the incident she avoided seeing him.

Avital also alleged that Peres had sexually assaulted her several years before when he was visiting Paris, where she served as a senior diplomat.

According to Avital, she was invited to have breakfast with Peres at the hotel where he was staying. When she arrived, however, she was told they would meet in his room for “security reasons.”

Avital said that as she entered the hotel room, Peres was waiting “in pajamas” and shoved her toward the bed, but she resisted and left.

“It took a few seconds,” she said.

Avital said she told the Labor party’s then-spokesman, Yossi Beilin, who was in the adjacent room.

“The next time Peres arrives in Paris I’m not remaining alone with him. You’ll be with me,” she said she told Beilin.

Prime minister Shimon Peres and cabinet secretary Yossi Beilin (L) at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. (GPO)

Avital also said Beilin was not shocked when she told him.

“He responded with a poker face. He understood,” she said.

Beilin, who later served as cabinet secretary under Peres and was justice minister, told Chanel 12 news that he did not remember the incident and that he “100% never witnessed such incidents” with Peres.

The article also had no response from the Peres family or foundation to the allegations.

Asked why she was prepared to work with Peres when he became prime minister, Avital said: “I didn’t imagine he would try again. During that time I quite admired him, in terms of thinking, talent, and his creativity. For me, he was the model of an open and thoughtful Israeli statesman.”

She also noted she worked with Peres closely before he became prime minister “and he didn’t try after the time in Paris. I didn’t think it would return.”

Avital said she did not tell anyone “because they would have laughed at me…. those were the norms.”

Colette Avital, in January 2008 when she was a member of the Israeli Knesset.(photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90)
Colette Avital, in January 2008 when she was a member of the Knesset. (Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90)

In the interview, Avital also recalled other alleged incidents of sexual harassment by her superiors while she was working at the Foreign Ministry and denied long-running rumors that she and Peres were romantically involved.

“What bothered me the most was that, God forbid, that they think I’m obligated to him, that’s he my patron and that because of him I’m moving up in life,” she said.

Peres, who later served as Israel’s president, died in 2016 at the age of 93.

Over a seven-decade career, the elder statesman of Israeli politics and one of the country’s most admired symbols held virtually every senior political office, including two stints as prime minister and extended terms as foreign, defense and finance minister. He won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in reaching an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Long a divisive personality in politics, Peres finally became one of Israel’s most popular public figures in his later, presidential years.

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