Israel’s Supreme Court freezes appointment of new state attorney

The struggle for authority between Israel’s legislative and judicial branches continued with the sudden move by the Supreme Court.

By World Israel News Staff

Only minutes before the parting ceremony of outgoing State Attorney Shai Nitzan, Israel’s Supreme Court froze the appointment of his successor, Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari.

Ben-Ari, who is to serve as interim state prosecutor, was chosen by Justice Minister Amir Ohana over the objections of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. The speech she was to give at the ceremony was cancelled as a result of the court decision.

Ohana, who spoke at the start of the ceremony, noted Ben-Ari, whose name had appeared on a short list of five people suitable for the position, had 28 years of legal experience. He read several glowing recommendations of Ben-Ari, including from outgoing state prosecutor Nitzan.

Mandelblit preferred another candidate – Shlomo Lemberger, deputy state prosecutor for criminal affairs. He was the only candidate that Mandelblit recommended.

“In Mandelblit’s opinion, in the entire prosecution, with all of its prosecutors, there is only one special candidate who can fill in as state attorney — this is not realistic,” Ohana said in a Tuesday interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news.

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In a letter on Tuesday, Mandelblit wrote to Ohana saying there was a “legal impediment” to approving the appointment.

Ohana has argued that Mandelblit has no authority to decide on the matter and that if Ben-Ari’s appointment is challenged he will fight it.

“I don’t intend to bow my head to someone who is not authorized to decide on this appointment,” Ohana said.

The battle over Ben-Ari is the latest in a contest between the legislative and judicial branches in Israel, with Israel’s Right arguing that the legal branch is out of control and ruling on matters that are beyond its mandate. The Left argues that the judicial branch is performing an important function of restraining the legislative branch.

The tone of the fight between the branches sharpened with the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Nov. 21.

In a defiant statement, Netanyahu said the indictment stemmed from “false accusations” and a “tainted investigation.”

“Investigate the investigators,” he demanded, attacking by name State Attorney Shai Nitzan and Liat Ben-Ari, one of the top prosecutors who built the cases against him – and no relation to Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari, the recently appointed interim state prosecutor.