Photo Credit: David Cohen/Flash90
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

The Zionist Federation of Australia attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s move to promote Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman to Health Minister on Sunday. In an open letter, Australia’s Zionist Federation president Jeremy Leibler warned Netanyahu that the appointment is “a slap in the face to the Australian Jewish Community, the Australian people, the community of Australian olim in Israel and most shockingly to the survivors of Malka Leifer’s alleged abuse.”

In early 2019, Israel Police launched an investigation against then Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ), on suspicion of obstruction of justice in the case of Malka Leifer, a former principal from Melbourne, Australia, who is facing 74 charges of child sex abuse. Leifer has been living in Israel and evading prosecution in Australia since 2008. Her extradition depends on the ruling of a panel of psychiatrists on her mental capacity to face the charges against her.

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In his interrogation, last August, Litzman denied any connection to the case and claimed that he had not been involved at all. But at the conclusion of the investigation, Israel Police said it apparently had sufficient evidence for an indictment against Litzman for committing fraud, breach of trust, and witness manipulation in the extradition case, as well as in one other case involving a dubious kosher certification.

Malka Leifer’s accusers Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer (rear) sit in court behind the former principal (front), March 6, 2019. / Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

In early December, Jewish Community Watch (JCW), a Jewish organization dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse within the Orthodox Jewish community, issued a statement saying that “while it is difficult for us to handle the great procrastination in this case, we are pleased that the Supreme Court rejected the claims against the panel of experts and adopted the district court’s decision on the matter. We hope that the expert panel’s decision will confirm our claims regarding Leifer’s competence, hasten her extradition to Australia, and pave the way for justice for her victims.”

Zionist Federation president Jeremy Leibler told PM Netanyahu, who had been forced to relinquish his health ministry portfolio because of criminal charges pending against him, which is why his deputy at the ministry, Litzman, was promoted: “When we met just a few months ago in Jerusalem together with former Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard AC and other high profile former Australian political leaders, you assured me that your government would do everything in its power to facilitate the extradition of Malka Leifer to Australia to face justice for the very serious crimes she is accused of committing.

“I vividly recall your words on your successful visit to Australia, the first for a sitting Israeli prime minister, when you said that “Israel has no better friend than Australia and Australia has no better friend than Israel.

“Prime Minister, friendship must go both ways.

“On behalf of the Australian Jewish Community, I implore you to reconsider this appointment until the investigation into Yaakov Litzman has concluded.”

The psychiatric panel’s ruling on Leifer’s mental capacity is scheduled to be published on January 14. Despite police recommendations, the state prosecution is yet to file charges against now Minister Litzman.

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