Leifer extradition case nearing end, Rivlin tells new Australian envoy

For some six years, Australian dignitaries visiting Israel have raised the matter of Leifer’s extradition with the various officials whom they met.

Malka Leifer
The prolonged extradition process of Malka Leifer, the former Melbourne Jewish religious school principal who is wanted in Australia on 74 charges of sexual abuse, is nearing its end, President Reuven Rivlin said on Wednesday.
Rivlin assured Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths that the matter will soon be resolved, and while Israeli law must be respected, Israel respects Australian law, and both countries respect international law, he said.
The matter was raised by Rivlin in a conversation between the two, after Griffiths presented his credentials.
For some six years, Australian dignitaries visiting Israel have raised the matter of Leifer’s extradition with the various officials whom they met, and Israeli dignitaries visiting Australia were also urged by their hosts to push for extradition.
Leifer allegedly tried to evade an appearance in an Australian court by feigning mental instability, but in May of this year, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that she was mentally fit to stand trial. Rivlin, who has been following the case closely, said that all that remains now is for the High Court of Justice to hear Leifer’s appeal.
Griffiths was the second of five ambassadors who presented credentials on Wednesday. The others were Patrick Cole of Malta, Olga Julissa Anzueto Aguilar of Guatemala, Theodora Constantinidou of Cyprus and Komekov Toyly Babayevich, the nonresident ambassador of Turkmenistan.
They were individually introduced to the president by Gil Haskel, the former head of Mashav, who was making his debut as the new chief of state protocol.
Rivlin visited Australia in February and enthused about the warmth of the welcome he had received, and the beauty of the country.
Relating to Israel’s ties with Australia, which go back long before the creation of the state and span more than a century, Rivlin said: “Australia is one of the best friends Israel can have.”
Recalling the presence of Australian soldiers in the country during both the first and second world wars, Rivlin said: “We had some differences of opinion with the British forces, but everyone loved the Australians.”
Moving fast-forward to present day cooperation, Rivlin singled out innovation, which is a priority for both countries. He also voiced appreciation for bipartisan Australian support for Israel.
Griffiths responded that senior politicians from both sides of Australian politics have come to Israel and that “Australia will continue to support Israel.
In the two months since his arrival, Griffiths has already detected the warmth of feeling for Australia, evidenced in part by the number of Zoom meetings between groups of people from both countries.
“Australians are very keen to come to Israel when the skies open up,” he said.
Cole, who on Monday watched the special program hosted by Rivlin that marked the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, complimented Rivlin, and said that it had been “a learning experience.”
He also congratulated Rivlin on the positive changes in the region, saying “We all seek peace. It’s our No. 1 criterion.”
Rivlin spoke of developments in the region, but declared that more can be done, and called on the president and prime minister of Malta to help in this regard, adding that Malta’s voice in the European Union and the United Nations could be a contributing factor to peace progress in the region.
Rivlin is very pleased that Israel now has “strategic connections with neighbors who were our enemies,” and voiced the wish for improved relations with the Palestinians, with whom Israel nonetheless cooperates on many levels, he said.
To Anzueto Aguilar, who is a first-time ambassador, Rivlin said that Israel would never forget the role played by Guatemala in 1947 in enabling its creation, nor the fact that Guatemala had moved its embassy to Jerusalem.
The ambassador said that now that the residence has also been moved to Jerusalem, she felt privileged to be living in the Holy City.
“We are not just neighbors, we are good friends,” Rivlin told Constantinidou.
In addition to underscoring the importance of the trilateral Israel-Cyprus-Greece relationship, Rivlin also spoke of what the people of Cyprus had done for Holocaust survivors who had been turned back by the British from the shores of then-Palestine and interned in Cyprus.
Present-day Israelis, he noted, are looking forward to visiting Cyprus again after the coronavirus crisis has passed.
Thanking Rivlin for Israel’s contribution to stability in the region, and implying that Cyprus wants to add to that contribution, Constantinidou said: “I want to bridge the 20-minute flight between our countries.”
She told Rivlin that he personally and Israel will always have an open ear and a hand stretched out in friendship in Cyprus.
Rivlin invited President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan to visit Israel and commended his initiative in proposing to the United Nations that 20/21 be declared an International Year of Peace and Trust. He also commended Turkmenistan for its evenhanded policy with all the countries with which it has relations, saying that this is something that the rest of the world should emulate.
Babayevich responded that Israel has an important place in Turkmenistan’s bilateral relations, and that his country has a policy of behaving responsibly both in its domestic relations and its external relations.
As far as relations with Israel are concerned, his country hopes to benefit from Israeli know-how and cooperation in hi tech and medicine.