Australia’s former man in Tel Aviv says Israel faces a “test of integrity” after a leader of the country’s powerful religious right was accused by police of obstructing the extradition of Malka Leifer, the Jewish school principal facing serial sex abuse charges in Melbourne.
Returned ambassador Dave Sharma, who in May swapped diplomacy for Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat in parliament, spoke out as the police recommendation to indict Deputy Health Minister and rabbi Yaakov Litzman continued to ricochet through Israeli politics.
Mr Sharma said the alleged witness tampering by Rabbi Litzman would help explain the delays and setbacks in the extradition case that frustrated Australian embassy staff in Tel Aviv and angered Ms Leifer’s accusers in Melbourne, where she is wanted on 74 charges of sexual assault against girls.
“This is now about the integrity of Israeli institutions and the rule of law,” he told The Weekend Australian. “I think Israel has now recognised that if this case isn’t dealt with properly, it will reflect badly on the country, badly on the Israeli system of justice.”
The police call this week for Rabbi Litzman to be indicted on charges of breach of trust stemmed from an investigation into allegations he had pressured expert witnesses to testify that Ms Leifer was mentally unfit to take part in extradition proceedings, exposing an effort by Israel’s politically potent ultra-Orthodox movement to protect her.