The common name is "Sex for Judgeship" scandal, but in an early June hearing on his disqualification in the Bloggers' affair, Judge Benny Sagi issued a gag order, prohibiting the use of that name. The disqualification hearing exposed that the Bloggers' affair was in fact an early whistle-blowing of the scandal...
Then Member of Knesset, today Justice Minister Amir Ohana (tallest, in dark suit) in an October 2019 house party with key figures of the "Sex for Judgeship" scandal at the home of Judge Rafi Aranya and his wife, Likud activist Attorney Susie Ozsini-Aranya.
Former Israel Bar Chair Efraim Nave and Judge Eti Creif, central figures in the "Sex for Judgeship" scandal.
Magistrate Judge Rafi Aranya, whose wife is also suspected in the "Sex for Judgeship" scandal and Judge Benny Sagi, who presides in the Blogger's affair criminal prosecution.
Tel-Aviv, July 12 in a newspaper interview this weekend, newly appointed Justice Minister Amir Ohana is quoted, calling for reform of the Israeli judicial appointment procedure. [i] Indeed, the Israeli judicial appointment procedure lacks legal foundation, lacks transparency and lacks public accountability. However, any call for reform is considered a battle cry against the judiciary. Ohana also called for better oversight of prosecutorial conduct. Indeed, prosecutorial misconduct and corruption of the State Prosecution are perennial problems, the hallmark of which is the failure to duly investigate and prosecute former Tel-Aviv District Attorney Ruth David for her conduct in office. [ii]
A new firebrand minister of justice and a constitutional crisis in a nation with no constitution
Such statements are deemed moderate. Upon his appointment he made statements that not all judgments of the courts need to be obeyed, and that the State Prosecution engaged in framing senior political figures. Such statements immediately drew a response from Supreme Court Presiding Justice Esther Hayut that "the Justice Minister chooses to share with us a reckless worldview... between such worldview and anarchy there is a short distance..." In the meanwhile, media critics opined that Ohana was appointed to wrack the justice system and save his boss Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is mired in corruption scandals. [iii]
Ohana was appointed Justice Minister in early June, as part of a transitional government between the April 2019 general election and the upcoming September 2019 general election. The double 2019 elections and surrounding circumstances are deemed by legal experts a "constitutional crisis" - in a nation with no constitution. The circumstances also include social disintegration and unprecedented hostile public discourse, all considered by many part of the lengthy end-game of Netanyahu's long hold onto power and his efforts to avoid indictment in multiple government corruption cases. Netanyahu's long tenure in power is also correlated with unprecedented corruption of the justice system.
Explosion of the "Sex for Judgeship" scandal
Regardless of his repeat comments pertaining to the need to reform the judicial appointment process and the State Prosecution, Justice Minister Ohana has notably made no mention of the third vertex of justice corruption -- the Israel Bar Association -- and the ongoing "Sex for Judgeship" scandal. Ohana is closely acquainted with the key figures in the scandal. In October 2018 he was photographed in a house party with the main suspects in the scandal.
The scandal erupted in mid-January 2019 with the arrest of Chair of the Israel Bar Association Efraim (Efi) Nave, who was a powerful and influential member of the Judicial Appointment Committee. Magistrate Court Judge Eti Creif and Attorney Susie Ozsini-Aranya, the wife of Magistrate Court Judge Rafi Aranya, were also arrested at the same time. The cause of the arrests was information, which was provided to police following the hacking of Nave's mobile phone by his estranged wife, possibly with help from a journalist and others, as part of a divorce feud. [iv] Attempts to keep the scandal under gag order failed, with immediate publications abroad. [v]
Within a couple of days it was clear that the scandal brought public trust in the judiciary and the justice system to a new all time low. [vi] It was also clear that true investigation of the scandal would require interrogation of some or all members of the Judicial Appointment Committee, including current and former Supreme Court Presiding Justices, Deputy Presiding Justices, Justice Minister and others. [vii]
Within a couple of days, Nave resigned from his position of Chair of the Israel Bar, [viii] and a few days later, Judge Eti Creif took an indefinite leave of absence, while her name and the names of others involved in the scandal, except for Nave, remained under gag orders. [ix, x]