You Wanted Bibi and Got Litzman

The deputy health minister's job makes him responsible for human life, yet he has used his office in defense of abomination

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Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a faction meeting of Shas at the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 12, 2018.
Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a faction meeting of Shas at the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 12, 2018.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Zehava Galon

Elly Sapper, Nicole Meyer and Dassi Erlich are three sisters who attended an ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne, Australia and are now accusing the school’s principal, Malka Leifer, of rape and sexual abuse. At first, they said, they didn’t know what was happening. They were only little girls and no one had taught them about sex, certainly not about rape.

Leifer, who has been charged with 74 counts of rape and abuse, fled Australia. She is now in Israel, protected by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. He is suspected of threatening psychiatrists in Israel in an attempt to have them submit professional opinions that would prevent Leifer from being extradited.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keeping silent. Leifer is not newscaster Oshrat Kotler, and, for the prime minister, abetting pedophiles is not as serious as expressing shock at the behavior of soldiers in the West Bank, as Kotler did.

>> In Israel, Australian sisters recount alleged sex abuse by ultra-Orthodox principal

You don’t even need the pretext of defending a pedophile to demand that Litzman get the boot. He’s had the health portfolio since 2009, and it would be hard to know how many people paid with their lives for this lost decade. For years, the health system in Israel has been on the brink of collapse. Doctors recount impossible stress and patients released too early to make room for others and describe huge shortfalls in manpower.

Litzman’s response to all of this is: “People are simply living longer.” The Health Ministry’s rebuttal was a shocking survey that indicated that 69 percent of people who were placed in corridors during their hospitalization were satisfied with conditions at the hospital and 65 percent said they felt “strengthened.”

Litzman has actually had some amazing achievements to his credit. He managed to clear out three rooms for the Gur rebbe and his entourage at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem, telling anyone questioning it that it was none of their business. He also visited Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who was under house arrest following a conviction of sexual misconduct with minors. Litzman signed a commitment for a 200,000 shekel ($55,000) bond for a woman suspected of starving her three-year-old son to a point at which he weighed only 7 kilos (15 pounds). In a patent case of a conflict of interest, Litzman ordered the convening of a committee to look into the conduct of the hospital that reported the child abuse.

It’s unclear why Litzman bothers helping people suspected of pedophilia or child abuse. His job makes him responsible for human life, yet he has used his office in defense of abomination and to turn the public health system into the Gur rebbe’s private court.

The Hamodia daily, which has ties to Litzman, has recently had the benefit of regular advertising from the country’s health maintenance organizations, which have also sponsored conferences organized by the newspaper. When corruption is so out in the open while the entire political system says nothing, everyone knows what line to toe.

Another prime minister could have demanded that Litzman resign. That would not have led to a breakup of the coalition, but Benjamin Netanyahu cannot demand something of his coalition partners that he refuses to demand of himself. That’s why the health system will continue to be trodden upon by this cynical man. If your parents have to stay in a hospital corridor, that’s your problem.

I’ve heard several people on the right wing explain that Netanyahu is a good prime minister and that they’re ready to live with his corruption, but anyone willing to live with a corrupt prime minister will ultimately have to live with the corruption of his coalition partners. That’s the nature of their alliance — one scoundrel defending another. And these are just the ones the public is aware of.

Litzman is suspected of threatening psychiatrists to protect a pedophile. One can only imagine what it’s like for a psychiatrist to weigh his or her career against helping a pedophile, and imagine what they’re thinking now, a week after the news broke, when the person who threatened them is still in office.

One can imagine the real price the public is paying for the Netanyahu’s government’s continued rule.

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