A woman has publicly accused former Likud minister Silvan Shalom of sexually assaulting her when she was working with him at the Foreign Ministry, the first time any of the women who have made similar allegations about Shalom has revealed their identity in the media.
In a report broadcast by Channel 12 news on Tuesday, Linor Itzkovich said the events occurred 16 years ago when she was Shalom’s secretary at the Foreign Ministry.
Shalom rejected the claim as “libel,” saying she had sought money from him and had fabricated similar stories in the past.
Itzkovich started working for Shalom in 2001 when he was finance minister and she was 20 years old, fresh from completing her army service.
In 2003 Shalom became foreign minister and Benjamin Netanyahu took over as finance minister, both serving under prime minister Ariel Sharon. Itzkovich was transferred, at her request, to the Foreign Ministry to continue working with Shalom.
Around two years later, she claimed, Shalom called her into his office and then, after asking her if she has affection for him, which she affirmed, suggested she remove her pants to prove it.
Shalom then advanced on her and began kissing her, she said, which she tried to avoid.
After Shalom indicated the couch, she lay down and, according to Itzkovich, he tried to push her legs apart. When she eventually complied, he “did what he did,” she said in the interview, without clarifying other than to say that “it hurt.”
After five minutes he said, “I’ve finished,” and then urged her to get up off the couch because he was in a hurry, she told the station.
Itzkovich said that Shalom also assaulted her on two other occasions. Once, he stroked her pelvic area as she was helping him with a computer issue and she told him to stop.
On another, she said he blocked a door to a room they were in by pushing a chair under the handle and then began groping her. Silvan’s chief of staff came looking for the minister and tried to enter the room. According to Itzkovich, the chair under the handle prevented her entry, causing the door to slam shut painfully on the chief of staff’s hand.
Shalom, she said, “was so scared.”
Itzkovich said she told a close friend in the ministry, a senior political adviser to Shalom, but asked him to not tell anyone else or do anything about it.
She said she did not file a complaint because it was hard for victims to file complaints against their attackers at the time, a difficulty compounded by her close working relationship with Shalom.
“As far as I was concerned it was like incest,” Itzkovich said.
In 2014 media reports said police had information about criminal activity by MKs, among them Shalom. At the time Itzkovich was interviewed by police.
She said she was traumatized by the events for many years until in 2014 she told MK Gila Gamliel about her claims. Gamliel put her in contact with the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, after which she received professional help.
A statement on behalf of Shalom said, “This is another libel from someone who worked with Silvan Shalom 16 years ago. This plot would never have come to fruition if Silvan Shalom had succumbed to financial demands and pressures for money, which had been directed at him by her and her mother over the past few years and had been refused.”
It alleged that Itzkovich had in the past filed a “fabricated” claim with police against another civil servant that she had worked with and that as a result of legal proceedings she was ordered to pay compensation.
The statement also claimed that during her time working with Shalom at the ministry, Itzkovich “used to occasionally bring up with other employees stories that seemed imaginary and fabricated to those employees, including about sexual assaults she claimed she had endured.” The statement said documents on the matter were passed to Channel 12.
Shalom’s statement further said that Itzkovich, at her own initiative, had stayed in contact with him for many years after she left his office, including visiting him on several occasions and inviting him to her wedding.
Allegations against Shalom first surfaced in 2014 when he intended to run for president. At the time, a woman complained but refused to give testimony. Another alleged incident was found to be past the statute of limitations. Shalom eventually did not run for president and continued serving in the Knesset until 2015, when he resigned amid a slew of more allegations of sexual assault made by women who had worked with him in the past.
Thirteen women in all came forward to make allegations against Shalom, though none filed police complaints. Thus, the allegations against Shalom were never substantiated and an investigation was subsequently closed.