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Israel Transportation Chief Quits

May 28, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel’s transportation minister resigned Sunday in light of sexual assault and harassment charges filed by three former subordinates.

The resignation of Yitzhak Mordechai, a former defense minister and highly decorated army officer, was expected to hamper Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s efforts to pull his coalition together after two partners threatened to resign over the government’s peace policies. The coalition troubles could cloud Barak’s peace process plans.

Mordechai’s resignation from the ministry was accepted in a Cabinet meeting Sunday and will take effect Tuesday, Barak’s office said in a statement.

Mordechai will continue to serve as a member of the parliament, the Knesset, but has also resigned from the leadership of the moderate Center Party, said Leor Horev, a spokesman. He will not try to prevent the lifting of his immunity as a parliament member, Horev added.

The resignation came two days after Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein announced that charges would be pressed against Mordechai. The charges centered on accusations by a former employee that Mordechai shoved her onto a couch and put his hand under her shirt on Feb. 25.

After the accusations were made public, two other women came forward with accounts of unwanted sexual advances from Mordechai.

Mordechai did not make any public statement in his resignation. Previously, he has denied all charges.

According to Israeli law, the names of the three women have not been made public. Rubinstein said Mordechai, 55, would be charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The Center Party decided Sunday that the post of transportation minister should be taken by another retired general, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, currently minister of tourism. Barak must approve the appointment, usually a formality.

Update hourly