Would-be Israeli president accused of sex offence
Allegation against energy minister Silvan Shalom by a former secretary threatens to destroy the career of one of Israel's best-known politicians
Police have questioned a senior Israeli government minister and presumptive presidential candidate over allegations he committed a sex offence against a former aide 15 years ago.
The charge may not hold up in court but could derail his hopes for the presidency.
The allegations against Silvan Shalom threaten to destroy the career of one of Israel's best-known politicians and echo a case that sent a former president, Moshe Katsav, to prison after being convicted of rape.
The allegations come from a woman claiming to be a former secretary in Shalom's office while he was minister of science and technology. She said he invited her up to his hotel room, where he lay on a bed in a white robe and asked her to sit next to him. She said she felt coerced to perform a sex act.
Shalom, 55, has vehemently denied the accusations.
Defenders have said the timing of the allegation was suspect, with the race for the presidency heating up. Shalom has not declared his candidacy but is expected to run for the position, which is to be selected by a parliamentary vote in the coming months.
Shalom, a member of the ruling Likud Party, serves as the minister for energy and water resources. In a political career stretching back nearly two decades, he has held several top posts, including finance minister, foreign minister and deputy prime minister.
The woman said she went public to thwart Shalom's bid for president. "This is my chance, now, to cause him to not become president," she told Army Radio.
"He will not be my representative to the world."