NOTE: Middle East Eye published my latest piece yesterday about the conflicted, ambivalent response of the American Jewish leadership to the Trump-Kushner-Netanyahu Deal of the Century. Please give it a read and promote it via social media.
For the past year, I’ve been reporting on a massive sex and corruption scandal implicating every level of the judicial system from top to bottom, including the cabinet itself. It’s been called the Sex for Promotions scandal. I call it Sex for Judgeships, since a number of those who are accused either offered or accepted sexual favors from those charged with promoting them to more senior judicial positions. In one particular case, a Supreme Court nominee offered lucrative financial benefits to the chief of the bar association which benefited bankruptcy law practitioners. I violated a police gag order in naming Yosef Elron, who did secure a Supreme Court seat (though he is reported lately to have taken a leave of absence).
Yesterday, Sharon Shpurer, who’s been reporting this story for The Hottest Place in Hell (Hebrew), published more incriminating text messages between Judge Eti Craif, one of the judges who traded sexual favors with bar president, Effie Naveh, and finance minister, Moshe Kahlon. The texts are all the more shocking since the minister has a relatively clean record, especially when compared to the current Rogue’s Gallery of corrupt and venal government ministers.
The judicial appointments committee which approves nominees for the Israeli courts consists of representatives of the bar, the court and the government. Kahlon and Justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, represent the government. That’s why Naveh and Kahlon, both members of this body, were particularly important to her.
I reported a year ago that Craif conducted an affair with Naveh, the bar association chief. She did this while she was a low-level prosecutor seeking to become a judge. Shaked’s legal advisor warned her that Craif was not as qualified as other nominees. Nevertheless, Naveh, Shaked and Kahlon all voted for her and she was appointed. Until now, we only knew about the affair she conducted with Naveh. But now it appears that she targeted two members of the appointments committee and conducted sexual affairs with both.
The most salacious exchange Shpurer reveals between Craif and Kahlon involves a conversation initiated by Craif in April 2018. It is published here for the first time in English:
Hey, I thought if you chanced to be in the neighborhood while on your way to the Maimouneh (a Moroccan Passover celebration), we could begin to lift the burden of proof a bit.
Of all the sexual come-ons! “Baby you can drive my car.” A bit characteristically strange and outrageous from the Beatles. And Joni Mitchell sang: “You turn me on, I’m a radio.” That was delightfully cute and unexpected. But “I’m all alone tonight. Won’t you lift my burden of proof, baby?” I don’t know. But I guess considering who we’re talking about, I suppose it’s the sort of flirtation a judge and a lawyer might find titillating.
That’s a wonderful idea, but to my regret it’s not possible.
In case there was any doubt in her earlier text, Craif texts him coyly:
That’s too bad. I’m alone tonight and I really wanted to lift the burden of proof.
In another set of texts, police bring Craif’s attention to an exchange with Kahlon in which he writes:
“Shabbat Shalom to the best judge…
To which she replies:
You seem to have forgetten what I am the best at…I wait patiently to remind you.
This dialogue is so tawdry and cliched, you’d think it was lifted from an Elmore Leonard thriller. But it was spoken by two Israeli legal professionals charged with offering transparent justice to their clients.
The State prosecutor has announced plans to indict Naveh and Craif subject to a preliminary hearing. But Craif faces additional charges that she destroyed evidence. During her police interrogation, she allegedly attempted to erase the text messages between her and Kahlon. Law enforcement was able to retrieve the erased messages published above, which revealed just how close their relationship was.
Despite the fact that Naveh lobbied on her behalf before the committee, it was Kahlon himself who first nominated her for the promotion. The affair with the minister continued from 2017-2018 right up until the scandal broke, even after she had secured her judicial appointment.
Further, the first meeting between the two happened during the period when the president of the Supreme Court was finalizing the nominations for the judicial lists. She turned at that early stage of the process to a series of officials of Kahlon’s Kulanu Party, seeking their help to secure the nomination. They passed her request on to Kahlon who contacted her. That’s how their relationship began according to Craif.
Kahlon tells a far different story: that she phoned him and he agreed to meet her for ten minutes, during which he told her only that he would support her if the majority of the committee did. However, police suspect this version is self-serving and intended to exonerate him. There is evidence that Kahlon had already expressed support for Craif before the committee had met, and that he conveyed that message to Naveh and asked that the latter support her as well. The minister allegedly also told Naveh that Ayelet Shaked was on-board with the appointment as well.
When Shpurer turned to the Kahlon’s ministerial office for comment, it did not deny anything in the report. Instead it offered: ” all relevant information has been given to the relevant authorities.” Kahlon has already announced he’s retiring from politics. Though we don’t know the reason for this surprise announcement, we do now.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.