Despite 'Serious Findings,' Israel Closes Case in Sex for Judgeship Scandal

Despite evidence that 'seemingly amounts to criminal offenses,' state prosecutor rules that there would be no reasonable chance for conviction of former Israel Bar Association Chairman Effi Nave

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Eti Craif and Effi Nave
Eti Craif and Effi NaveCredit: Reuven Castro / Court Spokesperson's Office
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The office of Israel's State Prosecutor announced it was closing the case against former Bar Association Chairman Effi Nave and Judge Eti Craif, who were suspected of exchanging sexual favors in exchange for professional promotion.

A statement from the Justice Ministry said that Deputy State Prosecutor for Criminal Affairs Shlomo Lemberger made the decision "after careful consideration," and that, even though the investigation revealed "serious factual findings, seemingly amounting to criminal offenses," he believed there was no reasonable chance of conviction in the case.

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The state prosecution announced in December 2019 that it was seeking charges against Nave and Craif. The latter, a former police prosecutor, was appointed a judge on the Netanya court in July, 2016 – a few months after her name was first proposed to the panel that selects judges. Nave admitted to police that he was having an intimate relationship with Craif at the time, but denies that he used his influence to get her promoted.

According to Lemberger, the decision to start proceedings was based on evidence that "Craif was intimate with Nave not only out of attraction, but also with the purpose of advancement, and that Nave was aware of it."

However, it was reported, "after hearing the arguments and explanations of the defense, the deputy state prosecutor thought the assessment of the evidence had to be revised." Lemberger believes it would be difficult to prove that the two committed a bribery offense, since the relationship between them began before Craif needed assistance from Nave, due to the "lack of explicit stipulation" and because the alleged "gift" was "an intimate meeting by consent and mutual will."

"An analysis of all the circumstances and correspondence between the two could lead to the conclusion that there was a corrupt and self-interested motive," Lemberger said, "but it can not be said to be the only interpretation. There is reasonable doubt as to the motive... which is required for a criminal trial."

Nave’s arrest in January 2019, and his subsequent resignation, sent shock waves through legal and political circles. He had been a dominant and influential figure on Israel’s legal scene since 2015 when he became president of the bar association. He is seen as a close political ally of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and was a key member of the panel whose support in committee votes has been crucial in helping Shaked appoint a larger number of conservative and religious judges.

During the investigation, Nave did not deny having an affair with Craif, 45, but argued that at that time he was no longer on the nine-member panel that appoints judges. Police suspect that he instructed two members of the panel to make sure that Craif’s name would be on the list of candidates and that they would push for her appointment. A police representative said in court that “Nave’s spirit was very dominant in the panel.”

Nave is now also suspected of helping a female legal intern pass the bar exam in exchange for sexual favors, according to an account the woman provided the police in 2019. He was also charged for tailgating in 2018 a traveler to sneak through the control gate, so there would be no record of his departure.

The indictment says that Naveh and his girlfriend Bar Katz were trying to hide that they were leaving the country together, to avoid having any impact on Naveh’s divorce proceedings which were being conducted at the time.

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