Analysis |

Sex for Judgeship Case: Arrest of Top Israeli Lawyer Won't Put End to Corruption

In her enthusiasm to fulfill her agenda, Israel's justice minister ignored all the warning signs regarding Effi Nave and gave him a dangerous level of power

Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz
File photo: Efraim Nave with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at an Israel Bar Association event, Tel Aviv, August 29, 2017.
File photo: Efraim Nave with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at an Israel Bar Association event, Tel Aviv, August 29, 2017. Credit: David Bachar
Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz

He sailed through the halls of power with impressive skill. Senior judges were obsequious toward him. Journalists ate out of his hand. He became good friends with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. He hobnobbed with ministers, and would give some of them discreet information about where the winds were blowing in the legal system regarding the cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to his friends, he had hoped that during this election or the next he’d get a spot on a Knesset slate and eventually become a senior minister.

>> Sex for judgeship scandal: Israel's most powerful lawyer named as main suspectEffi Nave's case is a litmus test for Israeli democracy | Editorial ■ Israel Bar Association president admits to trying to smuggle girlfriend into country <<

The ambitions of Israel Bar Association Chairman Efraim Nave, a talented and strong man with a weak conscience, knew no bounds.

Effi Nave

During the four years in which Shaked has been justice minister, Nave accumulated a dangerous level of power. He made a pact with Shaked that was aimed at breaking the Supreme Court justices’ hegemony on the Judicial Appointments Committee and at streaming what the two considered new blood into the system. There is indeed something captivating about figures that undermine the old elites and dare to saw the legs off the chairs that the masters have occupied for a generation.

But in Nave’s case, a brief look at his actions, style and preferences is enough to understand that his pseudo-ideology (against those justices from Rehavia, etc.) was a thin and fragile patina that hid only passions, shady deals, the crude fulfillment of personal interests and one central agenda: promoting Effi Nave.

One can state with the appropriate caution that if the suspicions against him turn out to be true, then the case of Nave and the female judges is a terror attack on the judicial system, just as Eran Malka and Ruth David were bombs that exploded in the police investigations division and the prosecution, respectively. Malka and David, who starred in the Ronel Fisher corruption scandal (in which the three were charged with bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice) further exacerbated the negative sentiment that already existed among much of the public toward the police and the decision makers in the Justice Ministry.

Efraim Nave, head of Israel's Bar Association and the main suspect in the sex for judgeship scandal seen at a Tel Aviv court on January 16, 2019.Credit: Reuven Castro

>> Israel's war on democracy is here – and the justice minister's leading the charge | Analysis

Malka was considered a rising star in the Lahav 433 police unit (known as "Israel’s FBI") and was the protégé of the late Efraim Bracha, who headed the national fraud squad. None of Malka’s commanders recognized the extent of his self-destructiveness until it was revealed that the officer and Fisher, a dubious and charming lawyer, had traded secret information from sensitive investigations in exchange for envelopes bursting with dollars and euros, and had disgracefully exploited their victims’ vulnerable state.

Ruth David had reached the top of the pyramid as a prosecutor and was determining others’ fates without her bosses noticing her flaws, until the Fisher case exploded and revealed that the senior prosecutor had been getting valuable gifts from her friend, the lawyer – and that later, when she resigned from that position, she had allegedly joined him in disrupting covert police investigations.

Now it’s the judicial system’s turn to get a bomb to the face and pay for the cynical and opportunistic alliance between Shaked and Nave, which made the IBA chairman so powerful that he could make deals to secure the appointments of judges to whom he was far too close. Shaked recently said in conversation that the two biggest achievements of her term as justice minister were the appointment of Mendelblit as attorney general and the appointment of judges. Both of these, but particularly the latter, were achieved through the alliance with Nave.

Did Shaked not see what any novice could have smelled from afar – that Nave was a man with no inhibitions? Or did the sophisticated minister, who spent some of her very limited spare time with Nave, Mendelblit and their wives, prefer to ignore the signals so that they would not interfere with her agenda of appointing as many conservative and right-wing judges as possible? Weren’t the investigations and the media revelations and the suit he filed to silence Sharon Shpurer enough for Shaked and other senior figures to keep a safe distance from him?

The Nave case might remove this particular man from his position of power, but it’s doubtful the phenomenon he represents will be erased. Nave types – sophisticated wheeler-dealers with or without official titles –continue to circulate among us, moving between ministers’ offices and Knesset committees, between hotel business suites and corporation corridors. They enjoy the patronage of people in government and the false sense of immunity that comes with it, and they exploit their positions to obtain payoffs, quick sexual favors and power.

Since those who represent us need the various services of coupon-cutters like these the way they need air to breathe, we will all meet soon over the next scandal.

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