Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Thursday hit back at accusations she bore responsibility for a corruption scandal involving a powerful ally in the Judicial Appointments Committee.
The minister rejected criticism against her as “an unbridled, false and inflammatory attack,” taking particular issue with female “left-wing Knesset members.”
Opposition figures assailed Shaked, accusing her of creating a “toxic environment” in the legal system, earlier this week, after it emerged that Israel Bar Association head Efi Nave allegedly helped appoint a female judge in exchange for sexual favors, and tried to promote a male judge in return for sex with the judge’s wife.
Shaked (New Right), has been accused by opponents of helping Nave build up his power within the committee with an eye to promoting her own political interests (like the minister, Nave holds conservative views on judicial authority), and allowing him to allegedly abuse that power under her watch.
At a Bar Association seminar on Jewish law in Jerusalem Thursday, Shaked said the accusations were “false attacks and lies.”
“The most disappointing attack is the attack by female lawmakers from the left,” she said. “We have our political differences, but I considered them colleagues. They are all women, and that is my disappointment.
“They are using the latest affair for an ugly and personal political campaign. The political attacks from the left won’t deter me.”
Rejecting calls to step down, Shaked says she’d continue serving as justice minister after the elections in April, for “four more years, until I complete the revolution I have started.”
Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) — who on Wednesday accused Shaked of “destructive leadership” that fostered a “corrupt environment and immoral alliances ” — responded: “It is lamentable but predictable that instead of offering regret, self-examination or an apology for her part in elevating Efi Nave and providing him unrestricted power, Minister Shaked is doing what she does best: attacking.”
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) said Shaked had “used her position as justice minister for political ends, hurt the justice system for political ends. Now that her aggressive tactics have allowed corruption at the heart of the system, she does what the right always does: blames the left. Well, it’s not the left, Ayelet. It’s you.”
Meretz party head Tamar Zandberg said “Shaked’s whining and attempts to cry ‘left’ won’t cover the corruption.”
Earlier Thursday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett defended Shaked, his New Right party co-leader, saying she had come under “toxic” political attacks. “All of her actions were lawful, out of deep fidelity to one thing only — the good of the State of Israel. My friends on the left, don’t be fooled: Shaked’s judicial revolution won’t be stopped,” he tweeted.
“Shaked has carried out an unprecedented revolution in the judicial system and is in the opinion of many, including myself, the best justice minister Israel has ever had,” he wrote.
Nave was arrested Wednesday and questioned by police investigators for allegedly nominating a female judge to a magistrate’s court several years ago, reportedly in exchange for sexual favors.
He is also suspected of having sexual relations with the wife of another judge, for the purpose of helping her husband advance from a magistrate’s court to a district court position — a promotion that didn’t come to fruition.
Nave on Thursday said he was resigning from the Israel Bar Association, as he did not want his “personal affairs, which I assume will conclude in short order, to hurt the vital work of the association.” He will be replaced by Uri Keinan.
As head of the bar association Nave had one of nine seats on the powerful Judicial Appointments Committee, which decides on placement and promotions for judges in Israel’s three-tiered judicial system. The position gave him an outsize voice in helping jurists advance in their careers, a role police suspect he exploited for sex.
A judge released Nave to house arrest late Wednesday, rejecting a police request to order him to remain in custody for three days.
Two other suspects were questioned on Wednesday, a female magistrate’s court judge and a female lawyer, police said, clearing for publication some details of the case, much of which remains under gag order.
The judge who was questioned will reportedly take a leave of absence, as will Nave, who was indicted last month on a separate suspicion — that he smuggled a female acquaintance out the country for a trip abroad and then tried to slip her back unregistered through border control.
Shaked and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut, who co-chair the judge selection panel, will be summoned to give testimony, as will the rest of the committee, according to reports.
The other members of the committee are Supreme Court judges Hanan Melcer and Neal Hendel, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Bar Association member Ilana Seker, and MKs Robert Ilatov and Nurit Koren.
“This is a rough day for me as justice minister and as a woman,” Shaked said Wednesday at a conference in Tel Aviv on women in business.
She declined to elaborate on the case, citing the gag order, but said she fully trusted authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.
“We are sure the the law enforcement system will complete the investigation and discover the truth,” Shaked and Hayut said earlier in a joint statement. “We hope the investigation will be completed soon in order to safeguard the status of the judiciary and public trust in it.”