Malka Leifer case: Court endorses suspended sentence for Litzman

Former minister and United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman's sentence will be eight-months in prison and an NIS 3,000 fine.

Yaakov Litzman at the weekly cabinet meeting, March 2020. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yaakov Litzman at the weekly cabinet meeting, March 2020.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Former minister and UTJ MK Ya’acov Litzman was sentenced to an eight-month suspended jail sentence as well as a NIS 3,000 fine for breach of public trust in the Malka Leifer case.

Litzman had been suspected of having used 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 2015-17 and from 2019-20.

He allegedly prolonged the delay in the extradition to Australia of accused pedophile Malka Leifer, and was said to have tried to prevent the closure of a food establishment that he visited.

The convicted legislator is suspected of pressuring the Jerusalem District psychiatrist at the time into falsely stating that Leifer was mentally unfit to be extradited to Australia to stand trial. She was eventually deported in January 2021 to Melbourne, where she faces 74 charges of child sexual abuse.

In the second case, which was closed by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday 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 be closed.

Malka Leifer (credit: MAARIV/AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)Malka Leifer (credit: MAARIV/AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

A bribery charge originally included in the indictment was dropped in May 2021.

“In these two cases, Litzman took advantage of his political and ministerial power to advance the interests of private individuals,” Mandelblit said in the May 2021 statement.

Litzman’s office responded in January that it “believed fully that he is innocent, and welcomed the decision to drop the bribery charge. Litzman’s door is always open, and he will continue to serve as a trusted servant to Israeli citizens.”

What was the Malka Leifer case?

Litzman eventually quit the last Knesset before his court hearing, which avoided a situation where the prosecution would seek a finding of moral turpitude against him.

The Justice Ministry declined repeated requests to explain its basis for closing the restaurant affair.

Multiple pro-women and anti-corruption groups attacked the plea deal as being too lenient.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv said in January that the deal, which will apply for three years, should have included a finding of moral turpitude to discourage future offenders, even if Litzman quits the Knesset.

Other charges against him were dropped in January.

In parallel to the deal and the negotiations, Litzman announced in December that he would not run for the Knesset again due to his age, 73.

In May 2021, former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit announced that he would likely indict Litzman.

Mandelblit was due to retire only days before the Litzman plea deal was announced, and had been reaching a number of deals to “clear his desk” in the lead-up to that date.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.