The Hacked Phone That Could Rock Israel’s Judiciary

Haaretz Editorial
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Efraim Nave at the hearing to extend his detention at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, January 16, 2019.Credit: ראובן קסטרו
Haaretz Editorial

Sensitive material from the cellphone of former Israel Bar Association chief Efraim Nave has been leaked and published. The evidence was collected in a criminal investigation against the lawyer suspected of advancing judicial appointments in exchange for favors. A gag order prohibits the media from publishing the correspondence and makes its distribution on social media a criminal offense.

The constitutional right to privacy that protects Nave and all citizens is a supreme right. It’s the reason for the gag order and also the reason for the cautious and only partial use of this material – which was obtained in an unauthorized search of Nave’s phone – in his criminal investigation.

This is all well and good, but new suspicions have come to light, including allegations that judges accepted bribes in the form of rendering a false verdict in order to gain a promotion.

These suspicions cannot be allowed to remain in the dark, and they certainly must be examined or investigated. The judicial branch acted correctly Friday when it announced that it had no interest in maintaining the gag order. It can be assumed that Supreme Court President Esther Hayut was behind this announcement. “The judiciary does not seek to conceal anything and has no objection to releasing the material in order to end this irresponsible smear campaign against Israel’s judges,” the statement said.

In the meantime, the gag order protects not only Nave’s privacy but also key figures in the judiciary. To factor them into deciding whether to allow publication constitutes a concrete conflict of interest.

It’s obvious that the judiciary’s institutional position does not automatically dictate its ruling on the gag order, which is assigned to a particular court. But the judge who rules on the issue should also consider the impossible situation, from both personal and professional perspectives, of the judges whose correspondence with Nave was seen by many people, as well as the great public interest in getting to the bottom of the details. As Israeli judges so love to say, quoting the legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

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