The Efi Nave story: From trailblazing lawyer to handcuffs

The rise and sudden fall of the head of the Israeli Bar Association.

Efi Nave in court (photo credit: REUVEN CASTRO)
Efi Nave in court
(photo credit: REUVEN CASTRO)
Head of the Israeli Bar Association Efi Nave was once lauded as the most powerful man in Israel’s legal arena. He was supported by the country and, when things went sour, he was aided by silence, lots of it.
This refusal to speak against him was shared by the community of legal professionals, members of the board in charge of the bar and the Ministry of Justice. All of them refused to denounce his behavior and demand he resign. All were waiting for the court to issue a ruling.
Even when Nave was faced with some alarming allegations, it's not been easy to find people in the top echelons of the legal establishment who decisively condemn him - until today.
Now, when allegations about a breach of personal conduct have surfaced, those around him have raised their voices for the first time.
"He reached great heights, and now he has reached great lows," wrote top legal bar members in their resignation letter released this week.
This line summarizes Naveh's story. He, more than any other head of the bar, directed the bar to attain political influence and was admired beyond any of his predecessors in the role. Now, he's at the bottom of the legal system, in custody and handcuffs. This reduced status is personal as well as professional.
Who is Efi Nave? How did he gain so many supporters and what led him to this point?
The 50 year old Nave was born and raised in Ashkelon and studied law in Ramot Mishpat College. Years later, when he became the head of the bar, he said colleges provide students with a low-level of education and this is why many college graduates fail when they attempt to pass the bar examination.
In 1995 after finishing his internship in a Tel Aviv Magistrate Court he was given his license to practice law and established the Atias-Nave law firm, which focused on personal injury law.
His rise to power was fast. In 2011, he became head of the Tel Aviv District Court and served as the head of its ethics committee, a role that now sounds ironic.
From 2015, he served as head of the Bar Association.
He is the father of six and currently in the process of divorcing his second wife. This divorce is now public, following media coverage.
Nave became the “official” face of the Bar Association. He appeared in every possible forum, took photos with every legal person of note, gained a place on the Judicial Selection Committee, and became a close ally of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. One of the better known things he did was to work with the news program Uvdah (Fact), where he documented himself speaking with judges and lawyers at the Bar Association’s annual event in Eilat - without informing the speakers they were being recorded.
Add that to growing reports that he has been illegally using a handicapped parking permit, and the legal community still failed to criticize him.
His personal feud with reporter Sharon Shforer, leading to a 1 million NIS libel lawsuit he filed against her did not lead reporters to write against him.
Even the publication two months ago that he was suspected of criminal acts, and was convicted of illegally leaving and entering the country with his current partner as part of a conflict with his wife, did not cause him personal damage.
Now it looks as if he is in trouble over his head. As the top lawyer in Israel’s legal system he must understand that.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut sent a letter to all the judges offering them her support in this "uneasy time.” Shaked voiced her discontent with Nave, using very cautious words.
We're still some distance away from these allegations being tested in a court of law and dismissed or accepted as truthful, yet the legal and political authorities in the land must ask themselves how a person of such low moral standards reached such a mighty position.