Israel didn't leak letter felling Irish president candidate

Sen. David Norris wrote 1997 character reference to Israeli court on behalf of a former lover convicted of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

David Norris 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
David Norris 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israeli Embassy in Dublin roundly rebuffed allegations that it was behind the publication of a damaging 1997 letter that led Tuesday to the withdrawal from the country’s October presidential race of the leading candidate, Senator David Norris.
“The Embassy of Israel wishes to state that allegations made in the media by some Irish public figures that the Embassy was involved in the publication of a letter written by Senator David Norris to a court in Israel have absolutely no foundation,” the embassy said in a statement.
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“No such letter was or is in the possession of the Embassy; as in Ireland, the judicial system in democratic Israel is entirely separate from the Government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Norris dropped out of the race for the largely ceremonial presidential post after a blogger revealed over the weekend that he had written a letter of character reference to the High Court in Jerusalem on behalf of a former partner, Ezra Yitzhak Nawi, convicted in 1997 of statutory rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in 1992.
The letter Norris wrote, on Irish parliamentary notepaper, said that Nawi was an “intelligent, honest, trustworthy, good and moral person for whom the present difficulty is quite uncharacteristic.”
He also wrote that Nawi was lured into a “carefully prepared trap” and “unwisely” pleaded guilty to the charges.
Norris and Nawi were reported to have had a 10-year relationship from 1975-1985.
Nawi is a far-left activist who has been involved in altercations with security personnel and Jews living in the southern Hebron Hills area. In 2009, he was sentenced to a month in prison on charges of assaulting police officers during the 2007 evacuation of illegal Palestinian caravans in the region.
“I do not regret supporting and seeking clemency for a friend, but I do regret giving the impression that I did not have sufficient compassion for the victim of Ezra’s crime,” Norris said outside his home on Tuesday.
He said he acted out of “love and concern” for Nawi.
The embassy, in its statement, said that “successive ambassadors of Israel have enjoyed a friendly, if combative and mutually critical, relationship” with Norris over the years.
“There is much admiration in Israel for Senator Norris’ work in Ireland in the cause of human rights and in particular for his endeavors for reform of the laws relating to homosexuality,” the statement continued.
There was less admiration, however, for Norris’ stance in recent years on Israel, which he criticized loudly and extremely harshly, leading some in Jerusalem to see him as rabidly anti-Israel.
For instance, he likened Operation Cast lead in Gaza to the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto; dismissed Israel’s then ambassador Zion Evrony as a “deranged propagandist for Israel;” called on the Israeli authorities to end their “cynical, heartless and contemptible exploitation of the Holocaust for their own political purposes;” and called Gaza an “open air concentration camp.”
The letter Norris sent to the High Court was exposed by a London-based Irish-born blogger named John Connolly, a 22-year-old recent law graduate, who wrote on his blog that he has two major loves: “free markets and Zionism.” Connolly told the Irish Independent that he received “hundreds of emails which were mainly hate mail” after his initial blog.
The embassy statement said that “Israel does not intervene in the democratic political contests of other states on behalf of, or against, particular candidates. It wishes all candidates in the Irish Presidential election equally well and looks forward to a mutually friendly relationship with whomever the Irish people choose as their next President.”