United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman was indicted for breach of public trust on Thursday, after he cut a plea deal with Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit in which he will be convicted in the Malka Leifer case. Other charges against him will be dropped, and he will pay a few thousand NIS fine as a symbolic fee.
In parallel to the deal and the negotiations, Litzman, 73, announced last month that he would not run for the Knesset again due to his age, though there are Knesset members far older.
Multiple pro-women and anti-corruption groups attacked the plea deal as being too lenient.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv said the deal should have included a finding of moral turpitude to discourage future offenders – even if Litzman quits the Knesset.
Litzman had been suspected of using his influence when he was health minister to prioritize the interests of private individuals over the needs of the general public. He served in that capacity from 2015 to 2017 and from 2019 to 2020.
He allegedly prolonged the delay in the extradition of accused pedophile Malka Leifer to Australia. The convicted legislator is suspected of pressuring the Jerusalem District psychiatrist at the time to falsely state that Leifer was mentally unfit to be extradited to stand trial. She was eventually deported last January to Melbourne, where she faces 74 separate charges of child sexual abuse.
In the second case, which appears will be closed as part of the plea deal, Litzman had been suspected of helping the food establishment Beit Israel remain in operation despite a Health Ministry order that it should be closed. The Justice Ministry declined repeated requests to explain why it closed the restaurant case.
A bribery charge originally included in the indictment was dropped.
“In these two cases, Litzman took advantage of his political and ministerial power to advance the interests of private individuals,” Mandelblit said in May when he announced that he would likely indict Litzman.
Litzman’s office responded then that it “believed fully that he is innocent, and welcomed the decision to drop the bribery charge.”
Litzman is expected to quit the Knesset before his court hearing to avoid a situation where the prosecution would seek a finding of moral turpitude against him. Mandelblit retires on February 1, and has been reaching a number of deals to “clear his desk” in the lead up to that date.
There have been suspicions that Litzman would reduce his future involvement as a public official as part of such a deal, just as Shas Party leader Arye Deri recently did by resigning from the Knesset as part of a plea bargain.
Presuming Litzman quits the Knesset, he will be replaced by the next candidate on the UTJ list, former MK Yaakov Tessler.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.