A smear campaign has been launched against Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to dissuade her from signing off on the extradition of Malka Leifer, a former school principal charged with sexual crimes against children, to Australia.
Leifer, a former principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, was charged with 74 sexual offenses she allegedly committed against three sisters.
She fled Australia to Israel in 2008 under suspicious circumstances after accusations against her had surfaced, and has been living in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Emmanuel in the West Bank since. She was arrested in Israel in 2014 and currently awaits the completion of the extradition proceedings.
In 2016, a Jerusalem court determined Leifer was unfit to face extradition and trial. In March 2018, a psychiatric evaluation of Leifer found she was fit to face trial, and she has been in detention since.
Meanwhile, several interested parties, among them people of means, have come together to thwart the Leifer's extradition, which is led by the Justice Ministry and its Australian counterpart. They hired the services of PR man Ronen Tzur to promote the campaign waged by the Leifer family against what they dub as "the extradition of the 51-year-old grandmother to the Australian authorities."
After a long period of discussions, the campaign organizers presented their plan, which included a proposal to use the services of a psychiatrist to highlight the failures in Leifer's treatment and explain she is unfit for extradition. Another proposal was to hire a legal team to file a complaint against the psychiatrists who treated Leifer for medical malpractice.
Another part of the plan focused on Justice Minister Shaked. According to the presentation detailing the plan, dubbed the "Rotten Shaked," Minister Shaked "has a clear agenda—every suspect is presumed innocent until proven guilty... on the condition you're associated with Shaked."
Moreover, the presentation specified a "plan of action" against the justice minister: "We will expose Shaked's reprehensible conduct in the Leifer case, and the questionable connection between the minister and people of wealth and power in Australia, as well as the shattering failures of the juridical system."
In addition to videos about the "failures of the judicial system," and the story of "Grandmother Malka Leifer," the campaign organizers planned to make the claim—under the title "Cutting the Shaked (almond in Hebrew—ed.) branch"—that the justice minister has close ties to the judges who reviewing Leifer's case, and that they were influenced by her post on Twitter on the matter.
As part of the smear campaign, organizers also planned to petition the High Court of Justice (HCJ), claiming that Shaked is blatantly meddling in the legal procedure.
The campaign has yet to be launched, and it is unclear whether it was decided to postpone it or to cancel it altogether.
Rosenbaum Communications, a subsidiary of media advisor Ronen Zur, offered the following response to the story: "As part of our work, different ideas are suggested on how to handle a client. Naturally, not all ideas get past the brainstorming stage. Beyond that, our policy is to not comment about our clients, which we will do in this case as well."
Shaked's office said in response: "The Justice minister will not be deterred by any systematic, false campaign against her. Minister Shaked will exercise her authority if needed, and has no intention to capitulate to threats. If the court decides Malka Leifer is fit to be extradited to Australia, the minister will not hesitate to act to bring her to justice by extraditing her."