Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman at the Knesset August 8, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman was questioned Thursday at the National Fraud Investigation Unit in Lahav on suspicion of committing offenses of integrity, following a covert investigation that began several months ago.
The investigation is being conducted under the supervision of the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office and with the approval of the attorney-general.
Litzman is suspected of obstructing legal proceedings by working to obtain false papers in order to prevent the extradition of Malka Leifer, an ultra-Orthodox alleged pedophile who was arrested in Israel in February 2018. Victorian police fought to bring Leifer back to Australia to face 74 charges of child sexual abuse.
According to reports, Litzman is suspected of trying to obtain psychiatric medical evaluations that would prevent her extradition.
His office said that he was “summoned to the police today for an affair related to a public request for help, and he gave his full testimony and answered all the questions as required.”
But Manny Waks, CEO of Kol V’Oz, an activist group fighting child sexual abuse, said, “We have long suspected high-level interference in the Malka Leifer case, and these serious allegations against Israel’s Deputy Health Minister, Rabbi Ya’acov Litzman, confirm the ongoing suspicion many have regarding this case.”
Waks said that while he would view Litzman as innocent until proven guilty, the minister’s “appalling track record speaks for itself,” noting that Litzman defended a recent visit to convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland. He said that the minister likewise informed Leifer’s alleged victims in a chance encounter at the Knesset that he does not support them or Leifer’s extradition.
“Litzman has shown his true colors in the past, and hopefully he will now be brought to full account,” Waks said.
Similarly, Meyer Seewald, founder and director of Jewish Community Watch (JCW), called the allegations against Litzman “shocking but unfortunately, not at all surprising.”
JCW had hired a private investigator to expose Leifer’s claim that she was unfit to stand trial as an attempt to avoid justice.
“Leifer’s defense team has used a host of underhanded tactics to drag the proceedings out as long as possible and make a mockery of Israel’s criminal justice system,” Seewald said. “The world is watching.”
One of Leifer’s victims, Dessie Erlich, said the long wait for justice has been “difficult and painful.” However, she said that she waited patiently with the understanding that the criminal procedure would take time.
“The discovery that the wait was allegedly caused by corruption at the highest levels is very difficult,” Erlich said. “We hope that this revelation will be a significant step, and despite all the attempts to thwart the decision on extradition, that it will be made soon.”
Kan News caught Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on camera being informed by phone in Warsaw about Litzman’s situation and responding with shock: “I cannot believe it, you are killing me.”
MK Michal Biran (Labor) charged that if Leifer managed to escape extradition because of Litzman, he should step down from his government position.
“The very act of intervention and attempting to disrupt evidence” is enough to require Litzman to step down, Biran said, “especially when it comes to such a serious offense as pedophilia and the exploitation of minors.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>