Israel’s attorney general stakes claim to state prosecutor’s office

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to assume the position of acting state prosecutor, and his move was swiftly challenged by Israel’s justice minister.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to take over the position of acting state prosecutor from Dan Eldad via an open letter on Sunday to the State Attorney’s office. The move was swiftly condemned by Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who petitioned the Civil Service Commissioner to intervene and prevent Mandelblit from taking on the role.

Mandelblit’s letter came on the heels of a Supreme Court order barring a three-month extension of current state prosecutor Dan Eldad’s tenure, which Ohana supported.

Petitioners to the Supreme Court argued that Eldad held a conflict of interest regarding charges currently pending against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that it was “unreasonable” to extend Eldad’s time in office during the transitional government period. The petitioners also argued that the court should prevent Eldad from continuing in the role because Mandelblit opposed it.

The Supreme Court took the petitioners’ side and ruled last Thursday that Eldad’s tenure would expire on Monday and no extension could be granted.

Mandelblit wrote, “As you know, the position of acting state prosecutor is now unstaffed. In the current state of affairs, and until the position is filled, the State Attorney’s office will return to the way things were conducted after the term of the previous state prosecutor (Shai Nitzan) concluded.”

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Mandelblit added, “The undersigned [Mandelblit] shall bear the overall administrative and professional responsibility for the work of the State Attorney’s Office, with the professional and organizational management and guidance being effectively carried out by the Deputy Attorney General, each within his or her area of ​​responsibility.”

Immediately afterwards, Ohana sent a letter to Civil Service Commissioner Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, stating that Director General of the Justice Ministry Sigal Jacoby should assume the role of acting state prosecutor instead of Mandelblit.

Ohana asserted that Mandelblit did not have the authority to appoint himself state prosecutor, and that as justice minister, he should have been consulted about the move. “Such centralization of authority, which a person has taken without legal basis, is at odds with all principles at the core of our judicial system,” Ohana wrote.

Following Ohana’s letter, Mandelblit also reached out to the Civil Service Commissioner and wrote, “This is an interim solution that has been implemented in the past – for a period of about a month and a half between the previous term of Shai Nitzan and the appointment of Dan Eldad.”

The squabble over the position of acting state prosecutor comes just three weeks before Netanyahu’s criminal trial is set to begin. On May 24th, Netanyahu is scheduled to be arraigned on charges of fraud, breach of public trust, and bribery. He maintains his innocence of all the charges.