Analysis

A Probe That Exposes the Corruption Behind Israel's Judicial Appointments

Investigation against Efi Nave uncovers other sub-affairs, though still covered up by a scandalous gag order shielding important legal figures, among them a top judge

At the court hearing to extend Efraim Nave's detention in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, July 14, 2019.
Reuven Castro

Even if the bribery case against former President of the Israel Bar Association Efraim Nave was tainted from the start because his cellphone was hacked to produce the evidence, the explosive material that it has exposed cannot be swept under the carpet.

Until his downfall, Nave was one of the key figures involved in naming judges in Israel. The police investigation against him focused on his efforts to help a woman he had intimate relations with get appointed. She is suspected of having urged him to help her win a spot on the bench.

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But the investigation against Nave has also uncovered other sub-affairs, though these are still covered up by a scandalous gag order shielding several important legal figures, among them a top judge, from being kicked off the bench.

The ties between an uninhibited, power-hungry and socially savvy Nave and the judges show how judicial appointments have been made in Israel – a story that has long been hidden from the public.

For years, the meetings between appointment committee members and candidates for the bench have not been disclosed as they should have been, and neither has the behind-the-scenes lobbying among politicians and other interested parties.

This silence was broken by the new sheriff in town. Nave, who had an alliance with former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who was friends with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who would routinely meet with senior politicians and dreamed of becoming a cabinet minister himself someday exploited his position of power to the hilt. Like a vote contractor for a ruling party, he took advantage of his role to gain sexual favors, connections and power. And yet, if there weren’t any people willing to dance to his corrupt tune, the public may have been spared such degradation.

While anyone interested in winning a senior appointment to the bench should have distanced themselves from him, Nave had ties with several people at the top of the pyramid that reeked of extraneous interests; others held conversations with him that judges shouldn’t have with a person they would be beholden to for an appointment. Some of them participated rather enthusiastically in the game.

A normal society cannot let several senior figures protected by a gag order make fateful decisions and send people to jail. If the judicial system headed by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, whose name has been unjustly harmed by some of the secondary players in this plot, wishes to avoid yet another blow to public confidence in her office, then the system must take the mandatory step of lifting the veil of silence and expose all the details.