Effie Naveh
Effie Naveh Flash 90

Amid rising criticism over the handling of the probe into now-former Israel Bar Association head Effie Naveh, police insist that the investigation conforms to basic legal norms.

Police are investigating allegations that Naveh promoted judges in exchange for sexual favors. As a member of the Judicial Appointments Committee, Naveh had significant sway in the appointment process for judges. Naveh is facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

Police have come under criticism after reports said that Naveh's alleged philanderous behavior after Army Radio reporter Hadas Shteif illegally hacked into his cellphone and found incriminating messages between the judges and Naveh. Shteif reportedly received immunity from the State Attorney's Office in exchange for turning over the contents of his cell phone, leading many jurists to conclude that the evidence may not be admissible in court.

Yet police insisted in a statement on Friday that "all relevant investigative activities were done lawfully, balancing the various interests involved".

"The investigation is conducted with the approval of the authorized bodies, with the support of the Central District Attorney's Office and the State Attorney's Office," continued the police statement.

Regarding the allegations that Shteif was the main source of the information regarding Naveh, police said that "without confirming or denying any of the allegations made in various publications regarding the way in which the information reached the enforcement authorities, we would point out that the investigation deals only with the examination of suspicions of criminal offenses in connection with the appointment of judges, and does not deal with other matters".

On Thursday, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel called on prosecutors to scrap the investigation into Naveh following reports that Shtief has illegally hacked into his cell phone. "There is no room for Naveh in public service and we must make sure that such a thing does not happen again, but if the information is correct, the investigation must be closed immediately," said the organization in a statement,

The probe revolves around allegations that Naveh exploited his seat on the Judicial Appointments Committee in order to receive sexual favors from judges and their spouses in exchange for promotions.

The nine-member Judicial Appointments Committee, headed by the Justice Minister, is responsible for all judicial appointments in Israel. Aside from the Justice Minister, the committee is composed of an additional cabinet minister, two MKs, usually including one from the opposition, two Bar Association representatives, and three Supreme Court justices, including the Chief Justice.

Naveh was also known for his close relationship with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, which enabled the latter to swing the Supreme Court to the right. The committee needs a majority of 7 out of its 9 members to appoint Supreme Court judges. Since neither political camp has such a majority, deals need to be struck between them. As such, Naveh has served as a key swing vote to confirming Shaked's conservative nominees.

The scandal currently rocking Israel's judicial system is not Naveh's first brush with the law. Last month, Naveh was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport for allegedly enabling unidentified women to enter the country without a passport. Naveh claims that the incident was part of an ugly divorce he is going through, adding that he had only smuggled in the woman in order to avoid tipping off private investigators that she had entered the country.