Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman
Australian Jewry has expressed both relief and frustration following news that the Israel Police has recommended indicting Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Ya’acov Litzman for allegedly interfering in the ongoing extradition case of alleged pedophile and disgraced Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer.
Leifer’s defense claimed that she is mentally unfit to be extradited, despite Israeli courts receiving evidence to the contrary, and Israel Police said that they found sufficient evidence to charge Litzman with trying to influence the opinion of psychiatrists appointed by his ministry in order to aid Leifer and prevent her extradition.
Litzman, who like Leifer is a follower of the Gerrer rebbe, Yaakov Aryeh Alter, allegedly abused his position to interfere judicially on behalf of at least 10 sex offenders, including Leifer.
Kol v’Oz CEO Manny Waks told The Jerusalem Post that this was “a positive step” and that it certainly “gives hope to the alleged victims themselves and the broader Australian community, who have been watching this case very closely.”
Waks said, however, that is “disappointment” from the community and the alleged victims “over what has gone on over the last few years.
“After over 50 hearings, we’ve always wondered what is going on in this case,” he said. “We’ve spoken to experts, and no one is able to understand why this has been continuing for so long.”
Waks said that this may shed light onto to part of why this case has been going nowhere over the last few years, and that they are getting some sort of answer.
“This case has gone on and on, and people have been watching all the twists and turns, the psychiatrists [evaluating Leifer’s mental state] changing their minds and how her legal team have been dictating the terms of the case,” Waks said.
He made it clear that she needs to face justice.
“We’re not convicting her,” he said. “She claimed that she was unfit to face the courts, and if she needs hospitalization, provide with the best health care, but if she is well enough to face the courts, let the judge decide.
“It’s not for anyone else to decide,” Waks added.
Dassi Ehrlich, a survivor of Leifer’s abuse at Melbourne’s Adass Israel School who has been at the helm of the #BringLeiferBack movement, said in a press statement that they were “feeling so grateful that the questions we continually raised through the #BringLeiferBack campaign, resulted in one more step to achieving justice.
“The investigation that followed into Health Minister Litzman brought to light the systemic cover up and support of abusers, in the highest levels of government, particularly in the Malka Leifer case,” she wrote. “The recommendation for Litzman to be charged, has us feeling excited, relieved and encouraged going forward.”
The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) welcomed the news, but said that the process has been “frustratingly long.”
“This is a very welcome step forward in a frustratingly long and drawn out process to achieve justice for Leifer’s victims,” said ZFA president Jeremy Leibler. “It sadly also highlights the considerable evidence of attempts to unlawfully interfere with the extradition of Malka Leifer by a senior member of United Torah Judaism.”
The ZFA called for Litzman to step down from his office at the Health Ministry, claiming that “These are extremely serious allegations and it is simply untenable for anyone in a position of public trust and responsibility to continue in their position while under investigation for fraud and breach of trust,” Leibler added.
He stressed that the Australian Jewish community joins Erlich, her sisters and all other victims of sexual abuse in their frustration at the many setbacks, delays and allegations of corruption in relation to the extradition of Leifer.
“We commend the Israeli State Prosecutor for his determination, in the face of these challenges, to facilitate the extradition of Leifer and hold accountable all those who have unlawfully interfered in this process,” he said, adding that they remain “hopeful and confident that this latest development will bring us closer to the extradition of Malka Leifer to Australia to face justice.”
Police in Victoria, Australia have laid 74 charges against Leifer, the former principal at the center of the Adass Israel School sex abuse scandal, over the alleged molesting of students from 2003 to 2008. Leifer, a dual Israeli-Australian citizen, fled to Israel shortly before a warrant was issued, and has been fighting extradition for more than a decade. (Jerusalem Post)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is likely to limit the authority and powers of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) in light of the Israel Police recommendation to prosecute him in two separate criminal investigations.
The Israel Police said Tuesday there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against Litzman for fraud, breach of trust and witness tampering in two cases, one of which relates to the extradition of former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer, who is accused of child sex abuse and the second involving the business of a close associate.
Litzman, the head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, has been a long-standing key coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Australia has been pressing Israel to extradite Leifer, who fled Australia in 2008. She is wanted by Australian police on 74 sexual assault charges, including rape, involving girls at the institution.
An Israeli court ruled in 2016 that Leifer, who has denied the charges, was mentally unfit to face extradition and trial. She was re-arrested in 2018 after a police investigation cast doubts on her health claims, and is in prison awaiting the extradition ruling, which Jerusalem District Court is expected to deliver by September 23.
In a statement, police alleged that Litzman pressured court-appointed psychiatrists operating through the Health Ministry to support Leifer’s mental illness claims.
Litzman denied the allegations, telling Ynet he did not know Leifer and had no wish to comment on the investigation.
“I answered all of the questions (from the police) and I strongly deny everything they are saying,” Litzman said.
The second investigation concerns allegations that Litzman improperly intervened in an attempt to stop the Health Ministry’s prosecution of a Jerusalem deli belonging to a close associate.
Police say there is evidence of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in the investigation into Litzman’s actions to protect Beis Yisrael-Goldy’s deli. The menu at the deli, which is just one block away from Litzman’s home, includes the “Trump Chicken Breast.”
A spokesman for the deputy minister said Litzman has always worked for the benefit of Israel’s citizens in complete transparency and that he is certain that further review of the evidence will show that he acted according to the law. (Ynet News)
The West Bank’s Civil Administration High Planning Subcommittee authorized the promotion of 2,304 homes in settlements and outposts, of which 838 received a final approval for construction.
Some of the planned construction will take place in illegal outposts, thus formally granting them the state’s approval; 98 homes in the Ibei HaNahal outpost and 98 in the Givat Sal’it outpost were approved for early planning.
A plan to promote an educational facility in the Haroe Ha’ivri outpost, near Ma’ale Edumim and the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar, set to be evicted for lack of permits, was also approved for early planning.
The Gush Etzion Regional Council Head, Shlomo Neeman, said in response that, “this is huge news for the south-east of Gush Etzion, to Jewish settlements in the Judean Desert and to the entire settlement movement.”
The Peace Now leftist movement said that approving the building of new homes in West Bank settlements is “a part of the destructive policy set to prevent a peaceful solution and the two-state solution and bring about the annexation of the West bank.”
“Hypocrisy is sky rocketing when the government grants its approval to an illegal outpost built by Israelis right next to the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar, where construction isn’t allowed.
“The wrong is unforgivable when after destroying 72 homes because they built by the separation barrier in Wadi al-Hummus, the government approves a whole neighborhood for settlers by the barrier fence,” concluded the organization statement. (Ynet News)
Iran has agreed to massively increase its monthly payments to Palestinian terror group Hamas in exchange for intelligence on Israeli missile capabilities, an Israeli television network reported Monday.
The Islamic Republic is a longtime financial supporter of Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip and is committed to Israel’s destruction.
In a recent meeting in Tehran between nine senior Hamas officials and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tehran expressed willingness to raise its monthly financial backing to the terror group to an unprecedented $30 million per month, Channel 12 reported, citing an unnamed Arab source.
That will represent a massive increase in Iranian support for the Gaza rulers. A report by the Ynet news site from August 2018, citing Palestinian sources, said Iran’s payments to Hamas at the time amounted to $70 million per year (less than $6 million per month).
The meeting, which took place two weeks ago, was attended by Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chief of the Hamas politburo.
In exchange for the funding, Tehran asked Hamas to provide intelligence about the location of Israel’s missile stockpiles, the report said. It was not immediately clear if the raise was strictly conditioned on the intelligence provided by the terror group.
The Hamas members said they would convey the request to the movement’s leaders in Gaza.
Hamas also reportedly asked Iran to act as mediator for the terror group with Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, after ties were cut off during the Syrian civil war.
Responding to the report, Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon noted that “despite lacking food or medicine, Iran/Hamas evidently have plenty of money for terror.”
During his visit to Tehran, al-Arouri said that Hamas and Iran stand on “the same path” in fighting Israel, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported at the time.
“We are on the same path as the Islamic Republic — the path of battling the Zionist entity and the arrogant ones,” he said, according to the report.
Arouri visited Iran with several other high-ranking Hamas officials, including Moussa Abu Marzouk, Maher Salah, Husam Badran, Osama Hamdan, Ezzat al-Rishq and Ismail Radwan.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh told a group of Turkish journalists at the time that he hoped the delegation’s visit would achieve “important results.”
Arouri, who was elected as Hamas’s deputy chief in October 2017, has traveled to Iran at least five times over the past two years. He has frequently heaped praised on Iran.
“Iran is the only country that says that entity [Israel] is cancerous and should be uprooted from the region,” he told the pro-Hamas Al-Quds TV in February 2018. “It is the only country that is prepared to provide real and public support to the Palestinian resistance and others to confront the entity.”
A report last week by the Haaretz daily said that Israeli intelligence officials believe Hamas and Iran have come to an agreement for the terror group to open a war front against Israel from the southern coastal Strip in the event of conflict breaking out with Iran’s allies on the Jewish state’s northern border.
The report quoted a senior security official as saying the intelligence establishment estimates Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group will try to force Israel to move forces and air defense systems to the south at the expense of troops fighting in the north.
The report said that Israeli intelligence sources believe Iran has increased its involvement in the Strip in order to turn Hamas into its operational arm against Israel.
The Islamic Republic also funds the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, which is similarly sworn to Israel’s annihilation. (the Times of Israel)
Israel is playing a role in a US-led coalition to secure the Persian Gulf from the threats posed by Iran, the Jewish state’s foreign minister revealed on Tuesday.
The Israeli news site Mako reported that Foreign Minister Israel Katz confirmed the cooperation at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Katz said Israel was a participant in a dialogue on the Gulf situation with the US and its allies, and was also involved in intelligence operations.
He said that such collaboration was very much in Israel’s interest, as it helped curb Iran’s power and aggression while strengthening burgeoning ties with Gulf Arab states.
Tensions have spiked in the Gulf in recent months, with Iran seizing foreign merchant ships, in particular a British tanker.
Following the incident, Britain announced that it would join the US coalition to secure the strategic waterway, something Katz described as being of great importance. (the Algemeiner)
A fire that broke out on Wednesday in the Gaza-adjacent Simhoni forest was the result of an arson balloon flown over the Gaza border fence, an arson investigator from the Ashkelon Fire and Rescue Service determined Wednesday afternoon.
The incident marked the first fire in the area to be caused by an arson balloon from Gaza after a respite of about a month from attacks of this kind.
Last month, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi met with heads of local authorities near Gaza. During the meeting, Kochavi said that the IDF was using every tool at its disposal to put a stop to arson terrorism from the Gaza Strip. Kochavi also briefed the local authority heads on the situation in Gaza, as well as provided an overview of the terrorist organizations which are active there.
The meeting touched on common goals and discussed continued cooperation between the IDF and communities that lie to the east of Gaza. (Israel Hayom)
A Palestinian man who faced death threats after saving the lives of Israeli children following a terrorist attack which killed their rabbi father was awarded Israeli residency by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Tuesday.
The unnamed 28-year old man and his wife—who has a nursing degree—were traveling in the vicinity of their home near Hebron on July 1, 2016, when they encountered the overturned vehicle of Rabbi Miki Mark and his wife, Chava, which had gone off the road near Otniel after being sprayed with bullets in a terrorist attack.
Rabbi Mark was killed and Chava seriously wounded in the attack.
Despite tensions between Palestinians and Israelis in the region, the couple immediately stopped and helped evacuate the couple’s trapped, injured and frightened teenage children from the car, assuring them that they were there to help and administering first aid, comforting and waiting with them until emergency medical services arrived.
“I took the boy and I hugged him. I gave him some water and applied iodine, and just kept telling him that everything was going to be OK,” the man said. “It doesn’t matter to me if it was an accident or a terror attack, it’s irrelevant. These are people, children, who need help, and if I can help, I will help them.”
“The girl told me, ‘God sent an Arab to help us,’” he added.
Another Palestinian, a local urologist who was also driving by, joined the couple in tending to the children and helped free Chava from the vehicle. She had been choking due to the position of her seatbelt.
However, according to the anonymous rescuer in an interview with the American National Public Radio, more Palestinians began to arrive—some of whom threatened to kill the survivors.
“If any of you approach my car,” he told them, “you will see what I am capable of. They are under my protection.”
Following the event, word spread of the man’s heroism—but some of the reactions were hostile. He was called a traitor and a collaborator. His boss fired him.
Ultimately, the man feared for his life and sought refuge in Israel while his wife and young child remained near Hebron. He received a work visa but it was not renewed last year, rendering him homeless and unable to work, despite two years of legal efforts on his behalf by Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.
His situation was ultimately publicized by Israel’s Channel 12 news, leading multiple Israelis – including leaders in Judea and Samaria such as Har Hebron regional council head Yochai Damari and head of the Shomron Regional Council Yossi Dagan – to push for him to receive Israeli residency, a designation that was bestowed not only on him on Tuesday, but also on his wife and son.
Deri praised the man for his “selfless, noble” acts and hugged him as he presented him with his new identity documents. “You belong here,” he said. (JNS/WIN)
And how did Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman get the police seeking his indictment for corruption in the proceedings?
by Josh Breiner Haáretz
Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is suspected of trying to influence the opinions of two Health Ministry psychiatrists asked to determine whether Leifer was psychologically capable of being extradited back home.
Who is Malka Leifer?
Leifer, who has Israeli citizenship, ran an ultra-Orthodox school for girls in Melbourne and faces 74 counts of rape and sexual assault of three sisters who were students of hers. Hours after the charges were published in 2008 she fled to Israel, and in 2014 Australia asked for her extradition. The question of her ability to stand trial is still being discussed by Israel’s courts, where more than 50 hearings have been held.
Why has she not been extradited?
Since 2014, the battle over extraditing Leifer has taken place on all fronts – in the courts, in the media and in the health care community. The question, being battled over by attorneys, media advisers and ultra-Orthodox activists is whether Leifer is psychologically capable of being extradited.
The struggle has cost a great deal of money; sources in the Ger Hasidic community say some of it has been paid by her family and some via loans and donations. “In her community, nobody denies the seriousness of the actions, but they don’t think she should be punished,” one source says. “And they think that a Jewish woman shouldn’t sit in prison with Gentiles, but in an Israeli prison.”
Sources say members of Leifer’s family have asked senior psychiatrists to provide an opinion in return for tens of thousands of shekels, a much higher fee than usual. According to the sources, the family hasn’t explicitly asked for a false opinion or specific conclusion, but the context was clear at least to some of the psychiatrists and it made them uncomfortable. The Health Ministry and state prosecutors also know about these alleged requests.
How did Litzman enter the picture?
In February, Litzman was questioned for the first time on suspicion of abetting efforts to prevent Leifer’s extradition. The police statement Tuesday says Litzman is suspected of pressuring the Jerusalem district psychiatrist, Dr. Jacob Charnes, to change his opinion and determine that Leifer is not capable of standing trial. In the end, Charnes amended his opinion.
Also, Litzman is suspected of meeting with another psychiatrist in an attempt to influence his opinion. This psychiatrist determined that Leifer is capable of standing trial and facing extradition.
Have such efforts been productive?
At first, yes. Following these opinions, in 2016, it was determined that Leifer was not capable of standing trial. But after a police investigation and the Justice Ministry’s conversations with an organization that handles sexual assault cases in the ultra-Orthodox community, psychiatrists from the Eitanim psychiatric hospital determined in February 2018 that Leifer was pretending and was fully capable of facing trial.
What was the basis for the psychiatrists’ opinion that she was pretending?
Doctors at Eitanim, including the hospital’s deputy director Igor Barash, found Leifer’s behavior to be “normative.” “At every crossroad of the legal process, the patient responded in the extreme to the threat of extradition, which included elements of pretense,” the doctors wrote.
“Between these phases she conducted a normal life and functioned properly. This pulls the rug out from claims that she has suffered a long mental illness,” they added.
“The patient understands the meaning of the legal process and therefore fears the repercussions and the anticipated sentence. This is the reason she responds to the legal situation in the extreme by presenting signs of mental illness, with the understanding that only by showing such signs of illness can she be spared the threat of a verdict.”
Where does the extradition process stand, considering the opinions that Leifer is pretending to be mentally ill?
Since February 2018, Leifer has been at the Neveh Tirtza women’s prison. Next month, the Jerusalem District Court is expected to rule on whether she should be extradited to Australia.
Will the psychiatrists who amended their opinions at Litzman’s behest be charged with any crime?
The police considered charging Charnes but closed the case for a lack of evidence; for example, difficulties proving that Charnes’ amended opinion was medically incorrect.
All of them are, of course, innocent until proven guilty; however, such a lengthy list raises questions over how this can happen and how to prevent it.
by Yonah Jeremy Bob The Jerusalem Post
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister and Shas leader Arye Deri, Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) leader Ya’acov Litzman, Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, Likud MK and former coalition chairman David Bitan, former general and political activist Gal Hirsch and a group of Jerusalem municipal officials are all facing corruption charges at the same time.
The truth is that this list is not even complete, as others – such as former deputy minister and Yisrael Beytenu powerhouse Feina Kirschenbaum, and a variety of mayors and other government officials – are already facing trials.
The above list is just the most recent officials who may end up on trial for corruption.
All of them are, of course, innocent until proven guilty; however, such a lengthy list raises questions over how this can happen and how to prevent it.
Let us not forget that former prime minister Ehud Olmert and several other former top Jerusalem municipal officials went to jail in the public corruption trial to end all trials.
Considering the speed and volume of new public corruption scandals, one might think that Olmert was 20 years ago, enough time for a new generation of politicians to come in and forget about him. But, Olmert was only released from prison in July 2017.
As for the local Jerusalem officials, good governance advocates that there is a chronic lack of checks, balances, boundaries and oversight of local officials.
Even as recent years saw a string of public corruption convictions of Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar, Ramat Hasharon mayor Yitzhak Rochberger, Bat Yam mayor Shlomo Lahiani, Nof Hagalil (Upper Nazareth) mayor Shimon Gafsou and several others, activists say that most local corruption is never caught.
On the national level, corruption is more complex as there is greater attention and oversight.
Part of the answer likely lies in the fact that most of the above cases do not fit into the classic bribery and fraud box.
Netanyahu is mainly accused of media bribery, not of receiving cash in envelopes in the blatant way that Olmert did.
Litzman is accused of trying to help an alleged pedophile avoid extradition, not of being flown around the world by tycoons like Kirschenbaum.
We do not yet know the full specifics in Deri’s case, but the charges have appeared to allege a complex tax avoidance scheme using a variety of family members. It is a bit closer to classic public corruption, but still some layers removed.
In short, politicians did actually learn from Olmert. They learned that blatant bribery will be caught and will not be tolerated.
However, many appear to have engaged in corruption nonetheless, only in more sophisticated ways.
Many officials have also used their power in allegedly corrupt ways, which could mix in with the narrative of being valid uses of their powers to defeat some kind of unfairness.
For example, Netanyahu said that his actions with media officials were to try to balance a media war against him that was unfair.
Litzman is saying that all of his actions were taken to help constituents who were being bullied and treated unfairly.
This does not apply to all of them, but shows that politicians are planning their power or financial moves to coincide with a sophisticated narrative which they can present to the public if necessary.
How can we stop this more sophisticated public corruption in the future?
No one has come up with a way to eliminate the scourge of corruption from the planet, but in September 2018, Yuval Feldman of the Israel Democracy Institute and Bar-Ilan University told The Jerusalem Post that “the law doesn’t understand how people make decisions. Typically, with a bribe, someone gets money and gets something in return from a public servant. Very few people would engage in such corrupt behavior.”
However, “many more people would do things for someone – write something nice about them in a newspaper, invite them to a conference or give a gift” – especially if they “know them and feel like the person is a friend.”
“When everything is a criminal law approach,” he said, “it is a very problematic approach to most violations. Regulatory laws prevent gifts to public servants, but that is not enough.”
Regarding a different strategy for penalties, he talked far more about administrative fines and frequency of enforcement than of using jail time and criminal law.
He is convinced that the much broader and corrosive group that law enforcement should go after are those who give money to others in these questionable borderline situations. This is as opposed to targeting the smaller group of people looking for ways to directly get money in their own pockets illegally.
Another answer is the public itself. Even if all of the above politicians are eventually found to be innocent, it has been stunning that none of them have faced any electoral consequences to date.
If the public reelects politicians accused of corruption – or in Deri’s case, those who have already been sent to jail previously – why should politicians avoid it?
New State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman is about to eliminate his office’s anti-corruption division with the support of the ruling political class.
Most voters do not seem to care or may not even have noticed. Until voters make politicians pay for corruption charges, the political class is unlikely to be deterred.
The news that Israel is involved in the U.S.-led naval mission to protect vessels traveling through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf against Iranian aggression cannot be separated from the overall campaign Israel has been waging against the Islamic Republic in recent years.
This campaign began in the previous decade in an effort to quash Iran’s nuclear aspirations and has evolved to include preventing the regime from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, and curtailing the quantity and quality of weapons it funnels to militias in the Middle East, especially to Hizbullah.
As a result, Israel is now the world’s number one expert on the Iranian issue. Its operations encompass a host of covert and low-intensity military and intelligence efforts to prevent enemy states and terrorist organizations from becoming stronger and thwart their offensive activity.
The overt part of this struggle includes countless operations and strikes on Iranian assets. In 2018, then-IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot spoke of over 1,000 operations and strikes on Iranian assets.
In fact, Israel’s intelligence-gathering superiority in the region is so great that it has been used for surveillance on ISIS in Syria. In operations against the jihadi terrorist group, the acting force may have been Western, but the intelligence from which they were working was Israeli.
It is important to remember that Israel is not taking the lead when it comes to the fight against Iran’s ambitions in the Persian Gulf or its nuclear aspirations – nor should it. The U.S. should lead this campaign.