Despite a heated exchange between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, the cabinet on Sunday formally approved Shai Nitzan as Israel’s 11th state attorney by a vote of 17-4.

Nitzman will succeed current State Attorney Moshe Lador on December 17.

A special five-member committee – chaired by Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein – nominated Nitzan, who had been deputy attorney-general for special matters, on Tuesday.

Following the nomination, Livni approved Nitzan and brought his appointment to the cabinet.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Nitzan was “the best candidate [for the position], smart, straight, knowledgeable in his area and knowledgeable and balanced in general.”

But Livni and Bennett traded verbal blows over the nomination at the cabinet meeting.

The Bayit Yehudi leader said he opposed the appointment because Livni had failed to interview other candidates.

Livni blasted Bennett, saying he was using procedural excuses to cover-up that he was opposing Nitzan on partisan grounds. She added that those on the Right did not want a process with more candidates, but a candidate who would turn a blind eye to illegal actions from their end of the spectrum.

Traditionally the five-member appointments committee interviews multiple candidates (which it did for this position), and the justice minister does not do a further round of interviews.

Livni added that Nitzan would “make decisions without taking orders from politicians.”

She also said the new state attorney would “defend the rule of law and also [the state’s] security as was proven in past cases when he needed to defend security-related decisions.”

All three Bayit Yehudi ministers: Bennett, Uri Ariel and Uri Urbach, voted against Nitzan, as did Uzi Landau of Likud Beytenu.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman recused himself from voting since Nitzan could potentially be involved in decisions regarding whether to appeal his acquittal in the Belarusian Ambassador Affair.

Nitzan’s Justice Ministry career has 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.

He spent much of his career arguing before the Supreme Court on a range of issues, particularly those related to security.

He was also involved in the Prisoner X Affair, and eventually rejected the plea bargain for former president Moshe Katsav.

However much of the media coverage over the nomination has focused on criticism of Nitzan from the Right. Nitzan made enemies there in recent years by taking a hardline with activists, approving administrative detention orders against settlers and ordering an investigation of rabbis Dov Lior and Ya’acov Yosef for allegedly inciting violence.

The new state attorney is facing daunting decisions and challenges in the near future, including potential indictments of former Ashkenazi chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and former IDF chief of staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as potential charges in the “Bibi Tours” Affair.

The appointments committee chose Nitzan in a 4-1 vote, after conducting marathon interviews with him and the three other candidates: former deputy state attorney Yehoshua Lemberger, Jerusalem District Court Judge Zvi Segal and Tel Aviv District Court Judge Avi Zamir.

Nitzan, 54, is married with five children. He served in the IDF Paratroop Brigade and has four academic degrees.

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