Ex-Israel Bar Chief, Judge Charged With Bribery in Bench-for-sex Case

Efraim Nave had intimate relationship with Eti Craif, while allegedly advancing her appointment as judge on the Central District Magistrate’s Court

Former Israel Bar Association chairman Efraim Nave at Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, January 2019.
Reuven Castro

Prosecutors intend to charge former Israel Bar Association chairman Efraim Nave with accepting a bribe, fraud and breach of trust, for allegedly promoting the candidacy of a woman with whom he was having intimate relations for a judgeship, without disclosing the relationship.

The woman, Netanya Magistrate’s Court Judge Eti Craif, will be charged with giving a bribe and destroying evidence. Both will be given a hearing before the indictments are finalized.

Nave is suspected of lobbying members of the Judicial Appointments Committee and others numerous times on Craif’s behalf. Although not a member of the committee, he had influence on the appointments through the bar association members who sit on the committee and who consulted with him, and through his professional relations with other committee members. Nave also attended preliminary meetings with then-Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, during which agreements were reached regarding most of the candidates for the bench.

According to the draft indictment, Craif, who was a police prosecutor, applied for a judgeship in August 2013. A month later she met Nave, who was then head of the bar association’s Tel Aviv and Central Division, at a professional conference. They remained in contact and had sex on one occasion. They remained in contact through August 2015, the draft indictment states, “through WhatsApp messages once every month or two, some of them with an intimate nuance that expressed a mutual desire to meet, though during that period the two did not have another intimate encounter.”

After Nave was elected head of the bar in 2015, the draft indictment states, Craif knew he could advance her candidacy. Craif thus, “Encourage, nurtured and tightened the intimate-flirtatious relationship, and the two had another intimate encounter at her home during the process of her being chosen for the bench. It emerges clearly from the body of correspondence between the two, together with the nurturing of the intimate relationship between them, as noted, that Craif asked Nave several times to intervene on her behalf and advance her appointment, in a manner that connected the two things to each other.”

Netanya Magistrate’s Court Judge Eti Craif.

According to the allegations, Nave expedited Craif’s invitation to the “first subcommittee meeting,” the first hurdle en route to a judgeship. Craif subsequently failed the course that all judicial candidates must take, although passing is not a prerequisite for an appointment. Nave allegedly asked the bar representative on the Judicial Appointments Committee to make sure Craif passed the second subcommittee meeting. Nave also got the bar representative and another member of the panel, former MK Nurit Koren, to vote for Craif’s appointment. At no point did Nave disclose to anyone that he and Craif were in the midst of an intimate relationship. In July 2016 Craif was appointed judge on the Central District Magistrate’s Court.

Craif is also suspected of destroying evidence by erasing WhatsApp messages “between herself and a number of people, including one of the members of the Judicial Appointments Committee,” when police investigators allowed her to use her phone as she was being questioned as a suspect for the first time this past January. Police, however, were able to retrieve the messages she erased.

Nave’s lawyers, Boaz Ben Zur, Carmel Ben Zur and Guy Raveh said in response, “This whole case originates in sin. Mr. Nave’s cellphone was stolen and hacked, and the prosecution, in a dubious move, granted ‘immunity’ to the hackers, even though this is a very serious offense. Because of this, all the evidence collected in the proceeding should be considered inadmissible in court.

“The attempt to ascribe characteristics of ‘bribery’ to relations between adults suggests a very poor perception of human situations. In any case, there is no legal basis for this argument, which attributes actions to Mr. Nave when he was not a member of the Judicial Appointments Committee and thus clearly couldn’t make any decisions relating to Ms. Craif, for good or for ill. Craif’s appointment was approved by an overwhelming majority of the committee, including by two Supreme Court justices.”

Craif’s lawyer, Ofir Straschnow , said his client categorically denies that she committed any offense. “Her selection as a judge was supported by eight of the nine members of the Judicial Appointments Committee, including then Supreme Court President Miriam Naor. She didn’t need any invalid actions to be chosen, and committed no such action.”