The tentacles of the Efi Naveh influence-peddling scandals have reached into the highest echelons of the Israeli justice system. I reported previously that chief judge of the Tel Aviv District Court, Eitan Orenstein, traded favors with bar association president Naveh to secure promotion to his current position.
The latest target is Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron. Kan reports that Naveh conspired with an unnamed Supreme Court justice in order for him to attain his promotion to Israel’s highest court. Though it doesn’t specifically name Elron, I’ve learned from a trusted source that he is indeed the individual in question. Elron has just taken a month-long leave of absence in the wake of the current scandal. Israeli journalists discovered this when the justice was absent from regularly scheduled judicial hearings this week. Mentioning the justice’s name in Israeli news reports is prohibited under gag order.
The court called the leave a month-long “sabbatical” which had been pre-planned a year ago. You can believe what you choose to believe.
This is the scandal that keeps on giving. I knew it was only a matter of time before it snared the highest level of the judicial system. Someone as ambitious and venal as Naveh would certainly not stop at getting judges appointed to the district court when there was an even more powerful perch on which to plant his chosen ones. The question now becomes what did Elron promise Naveh in return for his promotion. Because if there’s one thing you can be sure, Naveh didn’t do this for nothing. There was always going to be something in it for him: either sex, goodies for his fellow lawyers, or money.
Here’s the gist of the conversation:
I met today with, I think, ten candidates for the Supreme Court. Aside from licking my ass, they’ve already done everything [sexual reference]. And even that [licking my ass] they were willing to do! They want to lick your shit [there is a bleeped expletive which I assume is this word], and I…The judges want to lick my asshole…[laughter]
The YouTube video claims that Naveh’s interlocutor in the recording is Avi Chimi, who is Naveh’s successor as bar association president. But since the other person barely says a word and only laughs, it seems unlikely to be able to identify him with any certainty.
In this screenshot from the police download of the cell phone contents of former legal advisor of the Israeli courts, Baruch Lazar, he congratulates Naveh for his achievement in getting Elron named to the court. He says:
You’re making a mistake by not doing an interview. Take credit for Elron!
This indicates not only how well-known Naveh’s manipulation was amongst the highest level of the Supreme Court, but how prevalent his corrupt dealings were from the highest to the lowest level of the entire court system. Officials like Hayut, Shaked, and Lazar didn’t just turn a blind eye to it, they encouraged it, and used it to their own advantage as well. Naveh isn’t the only one who should be in the dock.
An Israeli reader sent me a message yesterday which offered the quid pro quo Naveh sought from Elron: the former wanted to decrease competition among Israeli lawyers for business. One way to do that would be to decrease the number of law school graduates passing the bar exam. Naveh’s part of the bargain from Elron was that the latter would increase standards for passing the bar so many more applicants would fail. That would shrink the pool of new lawyers and increase billings for existing lawyers.
Did Naveh Conspire with Shaked to Appoint Druze Judge?
Kan added a somewhat mysterious sentence in its reporting that Naveh is also accused of securing the appointment of judges in the “Arab sector.” My suspicion is that this case involves a Druze judge whom Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett boasted about appointing: Saab Darbour. Sharon Shpurer was the first to hint in her reporting that Naveh himself supported the appointment of Dabour to the bench. Maariv also reports that two of the three members of the judicial committee deliberating on Dabour’s appointment were fellow bar association members with Naveh.
In a libel case Naveh brought against Israeli journalist, Sharon Shpurer, he admitted that he “discussed candidates” with the two lawyers who were committee members, in addition to Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut. After he himself joined the committee, he had an even more power to influence who became Supreme Court justices. The committee which nominated Elron for the High Court consisted of Naveh and these two “accomplices.” Shpurer reported that Ilana Seker, one of the two, received thirteen arbitration cases from Naveh, despite the fact that he testified during the libel trial that, while he did offer her cases, the bar association kept no record of which lawyers were offered cases or how many she was given. In fact, Shpurer discovered there was such a list. Clearly, he lied and bought Seker’s vote on judicial nominees in return for offering her legal business. In a further irony, Seker is a member of the Ethics committee of the national bar association.
Shpurer also noted that Shaked’s Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party was using the appointment of Druze judges in order to “buy” the votes of Druze, a phenomenon that goes back to the founding of the State when it was the dominant Labor Party engaged in such influence peddling. Dabour comes from a large and influential family in the community. Appointing him to the bench would be certain to increase the number of Jewish Home votes in the community, where many residents tend to vote the way their leaders tell them.
Yet a few months before Naveh voted to promote Dabour, he railed against the latter in a case in which the judge deleted statements from the official transcript which he made in court, saying he planned to release a suspect arrested of weapons violations from detention. Something seems to have happened to have changed Naveh’s mind in the interim. The alliance between Shaked and Naveh, and her plan to gain Druze votes by appointing judges from the community seems to have done the trick and turned the bar association president around.
It’s also important to note that Shaked had an ambitious plan during her term to remake the entire Israeli judiciary so that it would move from a liberal-centrist outlook to a religious-conservative one. In this, she has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, with the corrupt assistance of Efi Naveh and his bar association cronies. The Supreme Court is now filled with settler and Orthodox justices and its decisions spurning human rights and ratifying settler colonialism have reflected the transformation.
Returning to Naveh and Elron, it is not unusual for Israeli lawyers to play a role in the promotion of judges. And they will sometimes meet with candidates. But given the intensive cultivation of judges and the massive levels of influence peddling, Elron’s appointment hangs under suspicion. If there had been nothing unusual in Elron’s appointment, he certainly would not have taken this leave, regardless of whether he had been in contact with Naveh or not. The fact that he has done so is the smoke indicating there will be fire. Now, we need to find out if there are text messages between Naveh and Elron on the former’s cell phone. If there are Israelis reading this who know of such material, please contact me.