The hearing on Australia’s request for the extradition of accused sex offender Malka Leifer had been scheduled for Tuesday in a Jerusalem District Court. The ordeal, ongoing for over a decade, includes countless court hearings, unprecedented damage to Israel’s ties with Australia's Jewish community and government, and most recently, major suspicions that Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman – who like Leifer, is member of the Ger branch of Hassidic Judaism – exerted pressure on psychiatrists to deem the suspect mentally unfit to stand trial and extradition.
Instead of a decisive hearing, the day brought another twist in the ongoing circus of the Leifer case. A team of senior psychiatrists was due to present the court with the new evaluation on the mental fitness of the former principal of an ultra-Orthodox girls’ school in Melbourne, who had fled to Israel in 2008 after being accused of raping and sexually assaulting her students. But someone on the team of psychiatrists "forgot" to inform the court that they hadn’t managed to submit their professional opinion on time.
District Judge Chana Miriam Lomp told a courtroom packed with reporters that the doctors "hadn't noticed" that the hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. As a result, the date for submission of the psychiatrists’ evaluation was deferred for another month.
This never-ending saga is shaking the Australian Jewish community, and public opinion there in general, causing diplomatic damage to the country’s usually warm relations with Israel. Even if Leifer is eventually found fit for extradition and if Israel’s justice minister signs off on the order, the case is expected to be further delayed by appeals to the Supreme Court.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself met with Leifer's alleged victims, the three sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper. A large number of parliament members who have worked on the three women’s behalf have also met with them.
This week, Haaretz reported that as a result of the case, Australia refused to cooperate with Israeli representatives in Geneva at an event on the prevention of the sexual exploitation of children. A diplomatic source further confirmed to Haaretz that the Leifer case has caused serious, irreversible damage to the relations between Israel and Australia.
The case began in 2008, when Leifer fled to Israel after learning that three sisters who had been her students had complained to their former school. This happened following Erlich's psychological treatment. Authorities in Australia began investigating the allegations, later filing a 74-count indictment for the rape and sexual assault of the three women.