The AP via the International Herald Tribune reports:
JERUSALEM: Israel has requested clarifications of a U.S. request for extradition of an Israeli man wanted in New York for allegedly sodomizing and sexually abusing several boys ages 9 to 15 more than 20 years ago, a spokesman said Saturday.
Israeli police arrested Abraham Mondrowitz, 60, before dawn Friday at his home in the ultra Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Nahlaot.
The suspect's detention came two months after the United States had resubmitted an extradition request first made in 1985, months after Mondrowitz fled his Brooklyn, N.Y. home for Israel in light of police charges against him, Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen said.
The new U.S. request came after Israel and the United States amended their extradition treaty to encompass all crimes whose punishment is more than one year imprisonment, according to the Israeli state prosecutor's office. Prior to the change that took effect in January of this year, the treaty did not cover crimes relating to sodomy.
Israel has requested a few corrections in the U.S. extradition request, the state prosecutor's office said in a request to be submitted Sunday for an extension of Mondrowitz's arrest by 12 days.…
Under New York law, those convicted with first degree sodomy can receive 25 years in jail, according to Israel's state prosecutor's office. Punishment for first degree sexual abuse brings a seven-year punishment, the office said.
What does this mean?
On the surface, Israel wants lesser penalties for Mondrowitz, if he is ever extradited and if he is then found guilty.
But the real story seems far different. Israel had the extradition request in mid-February (although it now claims to have received it in September, which does not seem plausible). It did not act until extensive Ha'aretz coverage ran this Thursday and Friday. Now Israel seeks "clarifications"?
Any change in the US extradition treaty – which is what I believe Israel truly seeks – will take years. Even if all Israel wants is to guarantee Mondrowitz lighter penalties if found guilty in Brooklyn, the process of arranging that – with its many implications for other cases from other nations – cannot be seen as easy or quick.
Mondrowitz will probably live out his life in Israel. He may serve time there for crimes committed on Israeli soil, but that service will be in a yeshiva prison with family and conjugal visits and regular vacations from confinement (I kid you not).
Israel's move to amend the extradition treaty removes Mondrowitz's fate from Israel's courts – which would most likely extradite him forthwith – to the political branch – which probably never will.
Why is this happening?
Because the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yakov Aryeh Alter (also known as the Gur Rebbe) is both the co-head of a religious political party, United Torah Judaism, controlling slightly more than half of that blocks votes, and a very wealthy man. Various Gerrer Rebbes (the title is hereditary and has been closely held in the same family for more than 100 years) have allegedly been protecting Mondrowitz for decades. Mondrowitz himself comes from a wealthy Ger hasidic family.
Because of Israel's fractured political landscape, no politician with his or her eye on the prime minister's job can risk alienating the Gerrer Rebbe. His small number of Knesset seats can (and often do) determine which coalition rules and which falls from power.
What the world is seeing is the corruption of both Israel's politicians and haredi rabbinic leadership there and in the US (where haredim pushed the Brooklyn DA to let Mondrowitz remain in Israel and not seek extradition). Both should be made to pay a political and financial price for what they have done.