Dear President Rivlin,
On behalf of The Australian Jewish News, may we first of all welcome you to Australia and say what a great honour it is to have you here.
As you told the paper this week, “there are many things that connect us and create a relationship of true friendship.”
As Australians, we take pride in the fact that our countrymen fought to free the land that would become the State of Israel, that they campaigned for its establishment on the international stage and were the first to vote for its recognition.
As Jewish Australians, we take pride in all of Israel’s achievements, its many and varied contributions to humanity, its quest for peace and the light it shines in the Middle East as a beacon of democracy and justice.
And yet, it is in the pursuit of justice that our heart sinks.
You are well aware of the Malka Leifer saga and the ongoing attempts to bring her back to Australia. Charged with 74 counts of child sexual abuse, it is now six years since police in Victoria requested she be extradited.
And yet, despite more than 60 court hearings, she is still in Israel, prolonging the anguish and agony of her alleged victims.
Every time it appears progress has been made, yet another legal stumbling block is placed in the path of justice.
And in so doing, as both politicians and community leaders in Australia have made clear, relations between our two countries – countries that are otherwise the very best of friends – are becoming strained.
It has reached a point at which the Israeli judicial system that allows this affair to drag on interminably has been denounced as ‘a circus’ and ‘a farce’.
Sadly, while it was announced by your office this week that “the president has full confidence that the State of Israel does not allow those who have committed a crime to use the state and its institutions as a barrier to facing justice according to law,” that confidence is not shared.
And that lack of confidence is exacerbated by claims that a government minister has interfered in the case on behalf of Leifer, impeding efforts to extradite her.
We appreciate the sentiments you expressed to the paper this week, that you recognise how “painful and difficult” the case is for the community and that the professional opinion of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that “the extradition should be carried out as soon as possible” and that they “are doing everything possible to expedite it”.
When such views are expressed, we place our trust in the Israeli justice system, but our faith is fast running out.
That being the case, Mr President, we implore you to do everything in your power to help alleviate the suffering of those Leifer is alleged to have abused, to meet with them and hear their concerns, and to do all you can to expedite her speedy return to Australia to stand trial for the heinous crimes she is accused of committing.
Yours in hope,
The Australian Jewish News