Israeli politician Elazar Stern says his country’s handling of the case of Malka Leifer, the former Melbourne school principal attempting to avoid extradition to Australia from Israel to face 74 child sexual abuse charges, has damaged the relationship between the two nations.
In an interview with The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald in Sydney this week Mr Stern said he was appalled that ultra-Orthdox politicians in the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – continued to oppose Ms Leifer’s extradition to Australia, citing Jewish religious law.
Mr Stern, a member of the centrist Blue and White coalition, said the case was not only having a negative impact on the relationship between Israel and Australia but had become a hugely contentious point in Israeli politics in its own right.
“I don’t think any Israeli should defend any Jewish person if they are a criminal just because they are Jewish,” he said. “I don’t think [the view of] a rabbi should have anything to do with national policy or international law.”
Ms Leifer, who was a principal of Melbourne’s ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel girls school, has already faced 63 preliminary appearances in which she has fought an extradition hearing on the grounds that she is mentally unfit. She has been defended by members of the ultra-Orthodox community that helped her flee Australia in 2008.