Former bar association chief who resigned in scandal seeks old job

Efi Nave joins race, after previously stepping down over suspicions he used post to advance romantic partner’s judicial career; was convicted last year in separate case

Efi Nave in Magistrate's Court in Lod, on April 28, 2019. (Flash90)
Efi Nave in Magistrate's Court in Lod, on April 28, 2019. (Flash90)

The former chief of the Israel Bar Association declared Wednesday he’s entering the race for his old job, after stepping down in a scandal several years ago, amid suspicions he advocated for the judicial appointment of a woman with whom he was romantically involved.

Efi Nave headed the bar association from 2015 until resigning in 2019 following his arrest, with prosecutors later saying they intended to indict him and then-judge Eti Craif for bribery and other charges. However, the case was closed two years later, with neither of them charged.

Nave was separately indicted in 2018 on suspicion that he smuggled a female acquaintance out of the country for a trip abroad, and then tried to slip her back unregistered through border control. The two were convicted last year and received suspended sentences of two months and fines of NIS 2,000 (around $550). They are currently appealing the decision.

As part of his position as head of the bar association, Nave served as the legal group’s representative on the powerful Judicial Appointments Committee. The nine-member panel decides on placement and promotions for judges in Israel’s three-tiered judicial system. This gave him outsized influence in helping lawyers advance in their careers — a role he was suspected of exploiting for sex.

Under a contentious bill to give the coalition extensive control over judicial picks, which nearly passed into law last month, the Israel Bar Association would no longer have a seat on the committee.

The legislation, which is part of a larger package of far-reaching proposals to remake the judiciary, is currently frozen amid talks that President Isaac Herzog is hosting with the aim of building broad consensus for judicial reforms.

Avi Himi in Tel Aviv, February 21, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Nave’s decision to throw his hat in the ring comes after his successor, Avi Himi, resigned in January following accusations of sexual indecency. Police announced a probe into the matter, hours after a television report alleged he masturbated during a Zoom call with a young female lawyer who was seeking his support for a judicial appointment.

Himi, one of the loudest opposition voices against the government’s plan to radically overhaul the judicial system, acknowledged engaging in the behavior but has insisted he received consent. His accuser, who has declined to reveal her identity, has said she didn’t consent to Himi masturbating in front of her.

Besides Nave, other contestants for bar association chief are Amit Bechar, who has been acting chair since Himi stepped down, and Avraham Lalum.

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