C'tee selects Deputy A-G Shai Nitzan as next state attorney

Livni congratulates Nitzan on nomination and says she will bring his nomination to the cabinet for final approval in the coming days.

November 19, 2013 09:38
4 minute read.
Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan (L).

Shai Nitzan 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

A committee on Tuesday chose Shai Nitzan, the deputy attorney-general for special matters, to succeed Moshe Lador as Israel’s 11th state attorney.

While Nitzan’s Justice Ministry career spanned nearly 25 years, ranging from defending the interrogation methods of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in the Supreme Court and the Knesset, to fighting the UN’s Goldstone Report, to defending the closure of the money-laundering “big case” against Avigdor Liberman, much of the media coverage has focused on the criticism of Nitzan from the Right.

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Nitzan angered the Right in recent years by taking a hardline with activists. He approved administrative detention orders against settlers and ordered an investigation of rabbis Dov Lior and Ya’acov Yosef for allegedly inciting violence.

The new state attorney nominee faces daunting decisions and challenges in the near future in which he will need to weigh in on whether to indict former Ashkenazi chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and whether to bring criminal charges against any of those involved in the “Bibi Tours” Affair.

Nitzan will be expected to restore public trust in the prosecution following embarrassing defeats in the Ehud Olmert corruption case and the Belarus Ambassador case against Liberman.

The appointments committee naming the next state attorney selected Nitzan by a 4-1 vote, following prolonged discussions and a marathon round of interviews with the four final candidates: Nitzan, former deputy state attorney Yehoshua Lemberger, Jerusalem District Court Judge Zvi Segal and Tel Aviv District Court Judge Avi Zamir.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni congratulated Nitzan on his nomination and said she would bring it to the cabinet for final approval in the coming days.

She said that Nitzan was about to take up “one of the most important and influential positions in the State of Israel as a democracy and a state run on the rule of law.”

Nitzan faced “not only the regular challenges before the state attorney” but also the task of “building and strengthening the public’s faith in the Israeli legal system,” Livni said.

The Justice Ministry spokesman announced Nitzan’s nomination, saying that the committee had found that “Nitzan stood out in his expertise, professionalism accumulated in different departments” in which he “dealt with a diverse series of sensitive and complex issues.”

Nitzan was born in 1959 and is married with five children.

He served in the IDF Paratroop Brigade and has four academic degrees.

Nitzan spent much of his career arguing before the Supreme Court on a range of issues, but especially regarding security-related issues.

Lador, head of the state prosecution, is due to step down in December, at the end of his sixyear term. Nitzan will also serve a six-year tenure.

Nitzan and Lemberger were considered the favorites as “inhouse” candidates from the Justice Ministry, with Nitzan reportedly called closer to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and Lemberger considered to be more from Lador’s camp.

The government gives the final approval for the next state attorney, but the recommendation of the committee, chaired by Weinstein, is essentially final.

Its four other members are: Justice Ministry director-general Guy Rothkof, the Representative of the State Service Moshe Dayan, academic representative Prof. Ariel Bendor and Israel Bar Association representative Rahel Toran. All of the members voted for Nitzan, except Bendor, who voted for Lemberger.

The media has speculated, at times based on unclear and always anonymous sources, that Nitzan was the state attorney in waiting because he was Weinstein’s choice and that Rothkof and Dayan would vote with Weinstein, with Toran following suit if that occurred.

Besides defending the Shin Bet, fighting lawfare delegitimization campaigns against Israel and his altercations with groups on the Right, Nitzan was involved in the Prisoner X Affair, presented the plea bargain for former president Moshe Katsav and worked on many other high-profile issues.

A top legal official said that Nitzan is “one of the smartest, most experienced and talented people whom I have ever worked with, and is always pleasant on both personal and professional levels.”

The official added that his “diverse experience would give him an advantage” in handling the position’s many challenges.

Right before his appointment it appeared that various right-wing groups tried to undermine Nitzan’s candidacy with a last minute complaint, filed with the police at the end of October, about a potential conflict of interest in the use of his powers from several years ago.

The police reportedly said the substance of the complaint is insufficient to open an investigation.

Another attempt to influence the process was a demand to remove Weinstein from the committee on the grounds that Lemberger had a general responsibility for the department that brought the charges against Weinstein’s wife for employing an illegal worker.

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