A Test to Equality Before the Law in Israel

The importance of the case of Israel Bar Association President Efraim Nave lies more than anything else in providing a litmus test for Israel's democracy

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Israel Bar Association President Efraim Nave with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked
Israel Bar Association President Efraim Nave with Justice Minister Ayelet ShakedCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Haaretz Editorial

The allegations against Israel Bar Association President Efraim Nave are not strictly about corruption. They don’t include suspicions of bribery for defense procurements or the exchange of billions of dollars of regulatory benefits in return for favorable news coverage. The importance of the Nave case lies purely in the test it poses to equality before the law in Israel.

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Nave is the omnipotent head of the IBA, with connections in the Knesset and a free pass to the justice minister’s office. He is so self-confident that at a recent public conference he had no qualms about making derogatory personal remarks about outgoing Capital Markets Commissioner Dorit Salinger. He once invited the investigative TV magazine “Uvda” to film judges ingratiating themselves to him in hopes of winning his vote on the Judicial Appointments Committee, in order to secure their promotion. Nave exemplifies the intoxicating nature of power, the rudeness of contemporary politics, the world of “I, and I alone.”

About a week ago Nave landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport with his girlfriend; he allegedly tried to help her enter the country without presenting her passport, and was caught. The suspicion is that they did the same while exiting Israel before their trip. The police did not make their questioning of Nave public. The incident was exposed only after Guy Peleg of Israel Television News learned about it. The police later claimed it was a private matter.

According to reports, Nave explained his actions by saying that the arrival and departure history of him and his new partner could be used by his estranged wife in their divorce case. Ostensibly, privacy is appropriate under the circumstances. But what’s private about a public figure trying to smuggle someone into the country? And how can one hide an alleged attempt by a man who appoints judges to tamper with evidence in a legal proceeding? The authorities failed once, by trying to keep the matter under wraps. They must not fail again.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at first supported her ally by condemning the “witch hunt” against him. She also initially objected to suspending him from the Judicial Appointments Committee. Subsequently, Nave himself announced that he was suspending himself from the committee that could potentially appoint the judges who will hear his own case. Yet none of this would have happened if the incident hadn’t been publicized.

Now investigators and prosecutors will have to decide whether to file charges. If this were an ordinary person, there would be no dilemma. Nave has admitted to the acts, which were in any case documented on security cameras. The offense was allegedly committed twice, so it’s hard to claim that it was a mistake. On the other hand, Nave is a member of the nouveau-connected, the stuff the regime is made of. The Nave case might turn out to be the “Buzaglo test” of the current era.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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