Israel's Litzman Admits to Breach of Trust in Malka Leifer Affair, to Pay $940

Former deputy health minister signed a plea deal in case that saw him accused of using his influence to help keep alleged child rapist from being extradited to Australia

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
Yaakov Litzman at the Knesset, earlier this month.
Yaakov Litzman at the Knesset, earlier this month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

United Torah Judaism lawmaker Yaakov Litzman signed to a plea bargain on Thursday under which he will admit to breach of trust over the so-called Malka Leifer affair, in which he was accused of interfering with the psychiatric evaluation of a former school principal who allegedly committed dozens of sex crimes against children.

Under the terms of the deal, reached with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office, Litzman will have to pay a 3,000-shekel (about $940) fine and receive a suspended sentence.

The charges of obstruction of justice against him will be dropped in the affair, in which he was accused of interfering with the professional opinion of a Health Ministry psychiatrist in connection with Leifer’s extradition to Australia to face rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse charges.

Leifer’s attorneys had sought to block her extradition to Australia, where she was wanted and is set to stand trial for alleged crimes against underage students at the school she administered, on the grounds she was unfit to stand trial.

The indictment against Litzman alleged that while he was serving as deputy health minister between 2015 and 2018, he pressured the ministry’s Jerusalem district psychiatrist to alter his professional opinion on Leifer’s psychological fitness in order to prevent her from being extradited. In the end, Leifer’s claim was rejected, and she was extradited last January.

The plea deal announcement issued by the attorney general’s office asserted that Litzman had exploited his position as a deputy minister “with the intention of preventing or thwarting legal proceedings or causing a miscarriage of justice.”

The offense of breach of trust relates to the fact that Litzman was "acting arbitrarily, out of outside considerations, contrary to law and contrary to the public interest for which he was entrusted as deputy health minister," the statement said.

A second case against Litzman, in which he allegedly sought to block the Health Ministry from closing a delicatessen near his home, will be closed.

The delicatessen affair involved a business called Beit Yisrael whose license Health Ministry inspectors planned to rescind, partly because of the discovery of listeria contamination in its prepared salads.

Litzman, a regular customer who was friendly with its owner, was accused of demanding that Jerusalem district food inspectors allow the business to remain open. He allegedly insisted on this despite warnings from the inspectors that allowing the delicatessen to stay open “constituted a real danger to the public.”

Magen, an organization that has been supporting the victims of Leifer’s alleged offenses, was critical of the plea deal.

“Unfortunately, today brings to an end a difficult period that has caused Malka Leifer’s victims immense grief," the group said. "We share the victims’ anger over the plea bargain and note that even though under the Israeli legal system they were not party to the case, there was room to hear their opinion,” the organization said.

“We hope that the admission [of guilt] will serve to validate the severity of these acts and that next time politicians will know that they are not above the law,” it added.

The plea agreement comes a month after Litzman denied he was negotiating a plea bargain but said he would not seek reelection to the Knesset. “If there are new elections, I won’t run. I’m not returning to the Knesset,” he said in an interview with the Knesset Channel. Litzman said his decision was unrelated to the criminal proceedings he was facing.

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