Esther Hayut (left) and Ayelet Shaked (right)
Esther Hayut (left) and Ayelet Shaked (right)Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Israel’s Tourism Minister slammed Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) and Supreme Court chief justice Esther Hayut Monday over their handling of the court collusion scandal involving an investigation into a former Netanyahu aide.

On Sunday, Channel 10 revealed a series of instant messages on the WhatsApp chat program between Judge Ronit Poznansky-Katz, and Eran Shaham-Shavit, an investigator from the Israel Securities Authority.

The two discussed the upcoming hearing for suspects arrested as part of the “Case 4000” investigation, which centers on suspicions that a Netanyahu aide provided chief Bezeq shareholder Shaul Elovitch with regulatory benefits in exchange for sympathetic coverage to the prime minister and his wife on the Walla! news website, which is owned by Elovitch as well.

In the messages, the Israel Securities Authority official informed Poznansky-Katz of his agency’s intention to request that several suspects’ arrests be extended, telling the judge to “act surprised” when he makes the request in court.

“I’ll practice looking surprised”, replied Poznansky-Katz.

“We’ll request three [more days], but you can really just give [us an extension] of two days,” the official wrote.

“If you keep telling me everything, I’m going to really work to act surprised,” Poznansky-Katz said.

Shortly after the Channel 10 report, the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court took Poznansky-Katz off of the case, assigning the file to another judge.

Justice Minister Shaked and Supreme Court chief justice Hayut responded to the case Sunday by announcing their plans to file a complaint within the Justice Ministry – with no apparent plans to file criminal charges against Poznansky-Katz.

On Monday, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) expressed outrage at the decision, voicing rare criticism of Shaked, a fellow coalition member.

Speaking with Yediot Ahronot, Levin called the decision to file a complaint within the ministry, rather than with police “whitewashing”.

“It is unacceptable, this giant process of whitewashing that we are seeing before our very eyes here.”

“This process is a corruption of the investigation and a corruption of the [judicial] process, and the announcement by Shaked and Hayut is nothing more than whitewashing. Instead of a police investigation, we get a check by the ombudsman.”

Given the seriousness of the case, Levin continued, Poznansky-Katz and Shaham-Shavit should have been arrested.

“In a situation like this, there should have been an immediate arrest of the suspects in this case in order to prevent problems during questioning.”

“We need to see if this was just an isolated incident. I don’t want to think about what it would mean if, God forbid, this was standard behavior for this judge.”