Israel’s justice minister defies attorney general, picks own state attorney

Amir Ohana may have to defend his right to select an interim candidate before the Supreme Court if Attorney General Mandelblit decides to fight.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Justice Minister Amir Ohana announced Tuesday that he has chosen Deputy District Attorney Orly Ben Ari-Ginsberg as interim State Attorney, in defiance of a recent ruling by the attorney general that only he can pick the candidate for the important legal position.

In his statement to the media, Ohana said that Ben Ari-Ginsberg’s “rich experience in a variety of fields and especially in the criminal field, her vast knowledge and management tools – make her the most suitable candidate for the important role of acting State Attorney…

“I have no doubt that Orly will work to preserve everything worth preserving, and contribute to strengthening public confidence in this extremely important system,” he said.

The appointment is only for three months, since the special committee that would normally select a new state attorney cannot be formed in a transition government.

If needed, the appointment can be extended for a further three months. Ohana’s decision was made necessary by the resignation of Shai Nitzan from the position, which had been anticipated for months and finally took effect Monday.

Ohana is openly challenging Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit with his selection, as Mandelblit had said that it was his right to choose a substitute.

Mandelblit reacted on Tuesday to the nomination, saying it “went beyond the scope of reasonableness” for Ohana to appoint someone without his approval.

Of the five candidates originally named, including Ben Ari-Ginsberg, Mandelblit gave the green light only to one: Deputy State Attorney for Criminal Matters Shlomo Lemberger.

Ohana noted the relevant clause in the law regarding temporary government appointments to show the attorney general need not be consulted. The 1959 law says that “the minister in whose office the post exists may entrust another civil servant with the post in consultation with the Civil Service Commissioner.”

Mandelblit has reportedly said that if Ohana chose someone he felt was unacceptable, he may petition the High Court of Justice to rule on the issue.

Ohana’s position is backed by Prof. Robert Aumann, the 2005 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. He  said that the separation of powers is being dangerously eroded by Mandelblit’s claim.

“Whoever heard of such a thing?” Aumann told Israel Hayom earlier this month. “He’s not only making himself the sole commentator on the law, now he’s also changing the law as he sees fit.”

Ohana may have another fight on his hands as well, since there is also a division of opinion whether the consultation required in the law was actually carried out.

Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz has said it was not fulfilled. The justice minister maintains that they held two meetings and several phone conversations regarding the candidates and the legal obligation had been fulfilled.