Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is facing calls to resign as Israeli politicians accuse her of complicity in a sex scandal that has rocked the country’s judiciary.
Shaked yesterday hit back at accusations that she bore responsibility for the scandal, in which the head of the Israel Bar Association, Efraim (Efi) Nave, allegedly helped appoint a female judge in return for sexual favours.
Nave is thought to be a powerful ally of Shaked’s within the judicial system, with both sitting on Israel’s Judicial Appointments Committee which assigns judges to the Israeli courts. Shaked’s political opponents are now claiming she allowed Nave to allegedly abuse his power under her watch in order to promote her own political interests.
Shaked yesterday hit back at this criticism, labelling it “an unbridled, false and inflammatory attack,” the Times of Israel (ToI) reported. The Israeli daily added that Shaked took “particular issue with female ‘left-wing Knesset members’,” telling a Bar Association seminar that “we have our political differences, but I considered them colleagues. They are all women, and that is my disappointment”.
Shaked was likely referring to criticism levelled against her by Shelly Yachimovich, who earlier this week slammed the justice minister for her alleged involvement in the affair. Yachimovich – who replaced Tzipi Livni as leader of the opposition following the latter’s unceremonious dismissal earlier this month – said in a statement on Wednesday: “[The] judicial selection committee operated under terror and corruption, under the destructive leadership of Justice Minister Shaked, and the rotten environment and broken alliances that created it are the ground for the horrific affair being exposed today.”
The scandal in which Shaked is implicated has shaken the Israel judicial system since details first emerged on Wednesday. Nave was arrested by the Israel Police on suspicion of offering promotions in exchange for sexual favours, as part of an investigation which saw his home and the Israel Bar Association offices in Jerusalem raided, Haaretz reported. The police seized documents and computer files during the raid. Nave has been released to house arrest for eight days pending further investigation.
Nave is suspected of appointing a female judge to an Israeli magistrates’ court in return for illicit acts. According to the Times of Israel, he is also “suspected of having sexual relations with the wife of another judge, for the purpose of helping her husband advance from a magistrate’s court to a district court position”.
Though the incidents are thought to have taken place several years ago, the Lahav 433 anti-fraud unit of the Israel Police only opened the probe two weeks ago, after Israel Army Radio journalist Hadas Shteif provided information to the police about the case. Additional details continue to emerge, with the investigation initially placed under gag order by Israel’s censor.
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has disqualified himself from dealing with the case “given his friendship with the main suspect”. Instead the case will be overseen by State Attorney Shai Nitzan, who ToI explains personally authorised Nave’s arrest.
The political ramifications of the scandal are yet to play out, though the revelations could be damaging to Shaked’s newly-formed New Right (Hayemin Hehadash) party. Shaked, along with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, broke away from the Jewish Home party in a bid to head into Israel’s upcoming general election with a clean slate, distancing themselves from what the religious-Zionist camp and hoping to steal seats from the ruling Likud party.
Other Knesset members (MKs) however blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for fostering an environment marred by corruption. Revital Swed, of the Israel Labor party, said: “The new affair highlights the four-year campaign of destruction, in which the prime minister and the justice minister abused the judicial system, politicizing it. When this is the norm, it is no wonder that the committee for the appointment of judges is also desecrated.”
Swed was of course referring to the numerous corruption cases levied against Netanyahu. The prime minister is under investigation in three separate probes –dubbed Case 1000, Case 2000and Case 4000 respectively – and has repeatedly attacked the police and judicial system, claiming they are biased against him.