Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends a Knesset meeting, December 3rd, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
“Tell all or resign,” MK Stav Shaffir demanded of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Wednesday.
Shaffir (Labor) was among a handful of politicians and other leaders who reacted swiftly and strongly to reports Wednesday that police arrested Israel Bar Association president Efi Naveh, a magistrate’s court judge and the wife of another magistrate’s court judge on suspicion of involvement in a scheme of sexual favors for judicial appointments.
The Labor MK said that, “the public deserves answers to a scandal that is on an unprecedented level” and that the justice minister “should tell the whole truth or resign – those are the only options.”
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich, also of Labor, accused the justice minister of giving “her protection to Efi Naveh, a man with blatant criminal patterns, and she has allowed him to control the appointment of judges in Israel.
“I respect the justice system,” she continued, but said that Supreme Court president Esther Hayut must distance herself from “the minister who has polluted the system and stand boldly against her.”
Likewise, fellow Labor MK Merav Michaeli said that Shaked “entered into an alliance with a criminal and backed him up with her silence – and must be held accountable for the ruins she leaves behind.”
Shaffir cautioned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might use the judicial scandal to “demonstrate that the whole system is corrupt” in order to evade prosecution.
“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” Shaffir said.
Politicians took to Twitter, disseminating statements to the media calling for an investigation – and asking how the justice minister and prime minister did not know about it.
“Only a real commission of inquiry will restore confidence in the system,” said Labor Party head Avi Gabbay.
MK Revital Swid blamed the scandal on the politicizing of the judicial system by Shaked and Netanyahu.
“This new affair highlights the four-year campaign of destruction, in which the prime minister and the justice minister abused the judicial system,” Swid said. “When this becomes the norm, it is no wonder that the Judicial Selection Committee has also been desecrated.”
Yacimovich expressed similar sentiments: “The Judicial Selection Committee operated under terror and corruption, and under the destructive leadership of Justice Minister Shaked.
“The rotten environment and broken alliances that created it are the grounds for the horrific affair being exposed today,” Yacimovich continued. “The judges and members of the committee were forced to act in a dirty and threatening atmosphere.”
But Shaked and Hayut issued an unusual joint statement rejecting any allegations of broad-based corruption in the appointment of judges.
The statement said that so far only two judges’ appointments are being probed, in contrast to the 334 judges and registrars appointed by the Judicial Selection Committee under Shaked.
In addition, the statement said that they trust the police to get to the truth regarding the investigation and hope the probe will be completed speedily to remove any questions about the legal establishment beyond those few suspected.
Later on Wednesday, Hayut sent a public letter to all of the country’s judges calling on them to “continue to believe in ourselves” and to continue to perform their duties honorably. She added that the judicial branch has faced hard times in the past – and that this probe is a low – but that the judiciary would “brave the storm and continue to show that most judges serve honorably.”
Hava Klemperer-Maretzki, chairwoman of the National Council of the Israel Bar Association, called an emergency meeting for Sunday.
MK Robert Ilatov (Israel Beytenu) praised his own work and that of other members of the Judicial Committee, urging them to remember the work they’ve done. Then he reminded them of their mission.
“It is a privilege and tremendous mission to serve on the Judicial Selection Committee,” Ilatov said. “We have the highest moral duty to keep it clean.”
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