Sex, judges and politics: Will latest scandal hurt Shaked?

Shaked has a relatively clean image, and hoped to attract right-of-center voters who were deterred from voting Likud because of corruption allegations against Netanyahu.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at Kohelet Conference in Jerusalem, October 9, 2018 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at Kohelet Conference in Jerusalem, October 9, 2018
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For weeks, the news has been teasing a major scandal in the judiciary, but few outside the inner circles of government and media knew just how shocking it would be: Sexual favors in exchange for a judgeship.
Bar Association President Efi Nave, a key suspect in the case, is an powerful figure. He heads an organization with over 59,000 members that influences legislation in the Knesset, and he sits on the Judicial Selection Committee.
He’s also someone very closely associated with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and her “judicial revolution,” playing an instrumental role in bringing more conservative figures into the Justice Ministry and in the courts.
So far, Shaked has not been directly implicated in the scandal in any way, nor is there an indication that she knew what was going on before the investigation began. And Supreme Court President Esther Hayut showed her confidence in Shaked by releasing a joint statement. One of the points they made is that the Judicial Selection Committee appointed 334 judges in the last term, and this new scandal is about one judge, and another judicial hopeful. Also, they said that there are two MKs, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, three judges and two Bar Association representatives on the committee, in addition to Shaked, seeming to make the point that one rotten egg doesn’t spoil the whole carton.
Still, one left-wing politician after another has called for Shaked’s resignation. Right-wing politicians, however, have been mostly quiet.
This is a wholly unsurprising reaction. Shaked is a highly polarizing figure, as are the policies she promotes. She has a clear, conservative agenda and she is articulate in defending it and effective in enacting it. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Left really doesn’t like her, and she’s also one of the most popular politicians on the Right.
And a close read of many of the reactions from the Left show that they are highly politicized – as is politicians’ wont. They’re not just calling for Shaked to resign, they’re saying that the entire concept of a conservative Justice Minister acting in step with her beliefs and her promises to the public is not legitimate.
Labor MK Merav Michaeli, for example, tweeted a video clip of Shaked saying she has become friends with Nave: “We have an identical worldview, an identical conservative worldview, and that’s very helpful in the Judicial Selection Committee.”
Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni said that “instead of a constitutional revolution, we got deals that turned into an indecent act,” and she said Shaked and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to “destroy” the judiciary.
The political damage to Shaked from these kinds of arguments will probably be slim. The Right, for the most part, doesn’t want judicial activism, so they don’t think that she has destroyed the judiciary, even if one of her partners in the effort engaged in highly unsavory behavior.
Which brings us to a different line of argument, that of Shaked’s judgment. Shouldn’t she have known that Nave, with whom she worked so closely, who she called a friend, was such a shady character?
"Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are, Minister Shaked," Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg said. "All the filth you brought into the judiciary is floating to the surface now, and it stinks."
The counterargument here, of course, is that Shaked didn’t choose Naveh. The Bar Association voted him in, and she has to try to get votes on her side in the Judicial Selection Committee. But no one forced her to tout him as her close ally.
The Right has experience with this kind of guilt-by-association with the Submarines Affair. Netanyahu’s personal attorneys and cousins David Shimron and Yitzhak Molcho were implicated in the ongoing investigation of whether there was bribery involved in the purchase of submarines from Germany. Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit clarified that Netanyahu is not a suspect and won’t be questioned. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, however, says fairly often that Netanyahu should have known what was going on and should be questioned.
Unless new evidence comes up in the case, it looks like the Left will have new mud to sling at Shaked and those on the Right who supported her and her policies probably won’t change much.
But not everyone fits neatly into one of those categories. Shaked and her partner in forming the New Right, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, have a relatively clean image, and hoped to attract right-of-center voters who were deterred from voting Likud because of the allegations of corruption by Netanyahu.
The intersection of sex, judges and politics is too shocking to resist, so expect this investigation to remain in the news cycle in the coming months. That could hurt Shaked and the New Right with the swing voters if she doesn’t manage to really distance herself from the scandal.