Portfolio swap

‘May justice prevail’: Litzman departs Health Ministry

With Yaakov Litzman announcing he will step down as health minister, it's hoped a significant barrier for Malka Leifer’s extradition to Australia has now been removed.

Yaakov Litzman at a press conference about the coronavirus at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, on March 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yaakov Litzman at a press conference about the coronavirus at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, on March 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

ALLEGED child sexual abuse victim Dassi Erlich described Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s decision to leave the health ministry in favour of an expanded housing portfolio last week as “good news for us”.

“Hopefully the alleged pressure on the psychiatrists of our case to rule in a certain way will now be off,” said Erlich, adding, “and while he shouldn’t be in government at all, at least in the housing ministry, he is not directly affecting some of the most vulnerable people in Israeli society”.

It has been alleged that Litzman, who was recently reported to have recovered from COVID-19, has interfered in attempts to extradite alleged child sexual abuser Malka Leifer to Australia, by pressuring psychiatrists to state she was unfit to stand trial. Litzman denies the allegations.

Malka Leifer and Yaakov Litzman.

Last Thursday, Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Litzman had told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of various unspecified considerations for the move, which he asserted was not tied to recent public criticism of his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Litzman came under heavy criticism when a television report said he took part in group prayers in violation of his own ministry’s guidelines shortly before he was infected with the coronavirus.

Litzman had reportedly been instructed by Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the head of the Gur Chassidic sect, to change ministries.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler welcomed Litzman’s resignation as Health Minister, expressing the hope this development “aids in a speedy return of Malka Leifer to Australia, where she can face her accusers in court”.

Leibler continued, “The Israel Police has recommended that Litzman be indicted. While it is good news that he will no longer be Health Minister, we don’t believe he should be a minister at all. If the Israel Police evidence against Litzman is credible, we urge Israeli judicial authorities to indict Litzman, in line with correct judicial proceedings.”

Yaakov Litzman.

The announcement has also been welcomed by child sexual abuse victims’ advocate Manny Waks, who said this was a “positive development” in the Leifer case.

“Based on the police recommendation to indict Litzman on a range of serious charges … it seems a significant barrier for Leifer’s extradition has now been removed,” Waks said.

“May justice finally prevail!”

Litzman, who leads the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party, has been the de facto head of the Health Ministry since 2009, except for a period between 2013 and 2015 when he was out of the government. 

Earlier this week, Litzman was also forced to answer allegations that he allowed the IKEA furniture chain to reopen its Israeli stores because its owners had given millions of shekels in donations to his Gur Chassidic sect. He denied the claims.

Related coverage: Litzman responds to doco allegations

read more: