SYDNEY (JTA) — The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has appealed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider the appointment of a minister under investigation for allegedly blocking the extradition of an alleged child abuser.
In a letter to Netanyahu, President Jillian Segal and co-CEOs Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin wrote that allegations Health Minister Yaakov Litzman interfered in extradition proceedings against Malka Leifer “unavoidably raise grave questions about the integrity of the handling of her case in Israel while Mr. Litzman remains in any government position.”
Leifer faces 74 counts of child sexual abuse allegedly committed while serving as principal of Adass Yisroel, a girls’ school in Melbourne. She fled Melbourne in 2008 for Israel before she could be charged.
In August, Israeli police recommended that Litzman, then the deputy health minister, be indicted for allegedly pressuring staff in his office to alter the conclusions of psychiatric investigations that had deemed Leifer fit for extradition. Leifer is currently under house arrest in Israel pending the conclusion of judicial proceedings.
The letter said the council has discussed the Leifer case with Israel’s ambassador to Australia, with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and members of Knesset.
“We have done this because of the profound wrongs that have been involved in Ms. Leifer’s evasion of justice in Australia thus far, and the unbearable impact that her alleged crimes have had on girls in her care. Justice demands that Malka Leifer be extradited to face her accusers in open court. Basic decency dictates that the psychological torment inflicted on these girls should be a paramount consideration for ministers of the State of Israel when evaluating whether Mr. Litzman is fit to join them in the Cabinet,” the letter said.
By promoting Litzman, the reputations of the Israeli justice system and the executive arm of government have been “sullied,” the Jewish leaders said.
Israel’s handling of the Leifer case has “caused immense distress among Jewish Australians and Israel’s many friends in the wider Australian community.”