The case of Israel Bar Association president Effi Nave, who has been arrested on suspicion of advancing judges’ appointments in exchange for sex, is the gravest corruption affair the Israeli justice system has ever known. The suspicions being investigated by the Lahav 433 unit cast a large and heavy shadow over the judicial selection and appointments process, as well as on the judgment of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
During Shaked’s tenure, 334 judges have been appointed and hundreds promoted. Shortly after becoming justice minister, Shaked forged a political alliance with Nave irresponsibly, leaving the Judicial Selection Committee without appropriate professional checks and balances.
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Under Shaked, the court system was compelled to accept appointments and promotions of judges that, it now appears, may have been made for improper, allegedly criminal reasons. Interviewed on the “Uvda” (“Fact”) news program at one time, Shaked praised her partnership with Nave. “With Effi and I there are common interests as well as friendship… We have the same worldview… On the Judicial Selection Committee, this is very helpful.”
Shaked, a representative of the settlers and proponent of annexation who sits in the cabinet, wished to advance judges whose views were to her liking, and to this end she was willing to forge inappropriate alliances. In so doing, she made the legal system a victim of unchecked and quite possibly criminal interests.
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In the Shaked era, the Judicial Selection Committee came to be composed of four politicians and two Bar Association representatives versus a minority of three Supreme Court justices. For the first time in the committee’s history, it included no representative from the opposition, who could have served as a brake on Shaked and Nave’s steamrollered appointments.
Nave, who ruled the Bar Association with a free hand, absolutely influenced the association’s position in the judicial appointment process. No one stopped him at all. Even now, he is widely feared.
Over the years, the claim has been heard from politicians and professional legal circles that public trust in the court system is being shaken due to an inordinate degree of influence wielded by the justices over judicial selection and advancement.
Now it turns out that the exact opposite was true: The shift in the balance of power on the Judicial Selection Committee – away from the justices and toward the politicians – is what made possible the actions now under investigation.
Public trust in the integrity of the judicial selection process, a foundation of the legal system, will not be easily restored. Justice Minister Shaked purported to stand for clean ethics, but if the suspicions now under investigation prove true, the ministerial responsibility falls on her.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.