A Tel Aviv court lifted the gag order on the identity of a senior judge linked to the scandal-plagued former head of the Israel Bar Association, Efi Nave.
The judge in question is Eitan Orenstein, chief judge of the Tel Aviv District Court, one level below Israel’s Supreme Court.
The judge who permitted the publication, Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Alaa Masarwe, is himself a subordinate of Orenstein.
The lifting of the gag order came amid media reports that Nave and Orenstein purportedly agreed to a quid pro quo in which Orenstein would allegedly use his power as a judge to help Nave’s business interests — Nave is a founding partner in a prominent firm specializing in torts and insurance — in exchange for Nave’s support for Orenstein’s May 2016 bid to be appointed chief judge of the Tel Aviv District Court.
Nave sat on the Courts Administration’s internal selection committee at the time.
The suspicions arose after some of the content of Nave’s cellphone leaked to the press amid a separate criminal investigation of Nave over allegations he received sexual favors from a judge in exchange for his vote on the Judicial Appointments Committee for her advancement.
The latter case forced Nave’s resignation earlier this year as head of the Israel Bar Association.
But there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the Orenstein case, Judge Alaa Masarwe asserted earlier this month when he initially refused to allow publication of the senior judge’s name.
The transcript of the leaked phone conversations showed “not even a hint of criminality” on Orenstein’s part, Masarwe insisted.
He agreed to lift the gag order after several media outlets including the Kan public broadcaster, the Haaretz daily, the Globes business journal and Channel 13 television news all filed petitions against his decision.
Orenstein said on Wednesday that the ties the leak revealed between him and Nave were legal and ethical. “Not only was our relationship not improper, it was actually necessary and appropriate” for a senior judge and top attorney, Orenstein said in a statement.
According to Haaretz, which first broke the story last month, Nave told Orenstein in a text message exchange that lawyers had complained that Tel Aviv district judges lacked expertise in torts, administrative and class-action law, bodies of law that Nave’s own firm deals with. Orenstein responded that he was working to correct the gap. Nave then replied that he intended to back Orenstein’s appointment as the top judge in Tel Aviv, and that he was the Bar Association’s preferred choice for the post.