Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Yaakov Litzman, March 4, 2020.

A plea agreement was signed Thursday with former Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), just days before Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit leaves office on Monday. Litzman will plead guilty to breach of trust in the Malka Leifer case, and the prosecution will remove the obstruction of justice item from his indictment – not a small feat for a defendant who helped a fugitive sex offender evade justice since 2015 (she had been a runaway from justice in Judea and Samaria since 2008), using his power as Health Minister to intimidate a psychiatrist into ruling that the former Melbourne, Australia school principal was unfit to stand trial. Another charge, regarding former Health Minister Litzman’s helping a Jerusalem restaurant evade being closed down on health violations, was also dropped. Also, Litzman will pay a fine of NIS 3,000 (less than a thousand dollars).

Needless to say, the deal did not go over well in Melbourne, where Jewish leaders are irate at Litzman getting away with using the power of his office to shield a woman who was accused of molesting at least eight girls in the Adass Israel school.

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The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council issued a press release titled “Litzman plea deal ‘very disappointing,'” arguing that “the provisions of the reported plea deal are that he will plead guilty to the lesser charge of breach of trust, and will receive only a nominal fine and a suspended sentence and will not be prevented from continuing as a Knesset member, to which AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein responded: “We are very troubled by this arrangement. It is a truth in both secular and Jewish jurisprudence that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done, and neither of these requirements would seem to be fulfilled here.”

“This result can only add to the trauma of Malka Leifer’s alleged victims, and we express our support for them at what must be a difficult time. There is no doubt they will be feeling let down by the Israeli justice system. Their distress will be shared by the Australian Jewish community as a whole, which has followed and admired their inspirational fight for justice. We note that the deal must be approved by a judge, who we hope ensures that Litzman is properly and appropriately held accountable for his conduct, and justice is served.” Dr. Rubenstein concluded.

Jeremy Leibler, President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote (ZFA responds to Yaakov Litzman plea deal): “If Yaakov Litzman has pled guilty to a charge of breach of trust during his tenure as Deputy Health Minister in relation to Malka Leifer’s extradition to Australia, it is difficult to comprehend how a small fine and suspended sentence delivers justice to the survivors of Leifer’s alleged abuse”.

“This plea deal does not send the right message to the survivors of sexual abuse or to others who seek to protect and cover up sexual abuse. While we respect the Israeli judicial process, we urge the Court which must approve the deal to have regard to the impact that Litzman’s alleged conduct has had and continues to have on survivors of sexual abuse and the public’s confidence in the integrity of Israel’s elected officials”.

“The Australian Jewish Community continues to stand with the brave survivors of Leifer’s alleged abuse. Our thoughts are with the survivors during what must be a very difficult time.”

According to J-Wire, Peter Wertheim, co-CEO of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, asked: “How many times were we told that the delay in extraditing Malka Leifer to Australia was duly solely to the necessity for due process? How often were we told to place our trust in Israel’s system of justice? We are thankful that Israel finally extradited Leifer to Australia after seven years of extradition proceedings. But for how many years were those proceedings wrongfully prolonged, to the added distress and anxiety of the survivors of Leifer’s alleged abuse, as a consequence of Yaakov Litzman misusing his former position as deputy health minister to thwart the extradition?”

Wertheim concluded: “Any interference in the course of justice by a government minister is an abuse of power of the utmost gravity. For the sake of Israel’s good name and the high reputation of its system of justice, such abuse needs to be punished with appropriate severity. A fine and a suspended sentence, as envisaged by the plea deal struck between Litzman and Israel’s Attorney General, fall well short of the mark. The deal can only take effect if it is approved by an Israeli court. No judge should approve it.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.