Shai Nitzan 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
Shai Nitzan, who took over the position of state attorney this week, faces a
number of challenges.
First and foremost, Nitzan must work to
rehabilitate the public’s trust in the state prosecution.
prosecution’s good name has taken a beating in the wake of a few high-profile
failures. Most recently, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman was acquitted
of charges of breach of public trust and fraud brought against him back in
The resounding failure of state prosecutors was amplified by the
fact that Liberman had been investigated for 17 years and that a much larger,
multi-million- dollar money-laundering case had been dropped without any
In July, former prime minister Ehud Olmert was acquitted of
the two more serious charges the state prosecution brought against him. The
prosecution managed to convict Olmert on the less serious charge of breach of
The Olmert and Liberman cases have fueled public outcry,
particularly among the two politicians’ supporters, that the investigations and
indictments were nothing more than politically motivated witchhunts.
objective voices such as former Supreme Court justices Jacob Terkel and Eliahu
Mazza, who were both critical of the tremendous amount of time Liberman was
under investigation without being indicted, called on the state prosecution to
review its methods.
The state attorney and the attorney-general must make
an effort to rehabilitate the prosecution’s standing in the eyes of the public,
and Nitzan will be instrumental in spearheading this effort. Completing the
process of establishing an external body that will operate as a sort of
ombudsman supervising the state attorney, the attorney-general and the police
prosecution unit will help. But the new body may be a source of tension and a
challenge to his authority that Nitzan will have to take into
Nitzan will have to deal with a few high-profile cases of
his own. One such case is the Harpaz Affair that involves former chief of staff
Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, Col. (res.) Erez Weiner and
(res.) Boaz Harpaz. Another is the criminal investigation of
former chief Ashkenazi rabbi Yonah Metzger, who is suspected of bribery and
fraud. And there is also the Bibi Tours case of purported improprieties
involving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s travel expenses.
skills and background are markedly different from those of outgoing state
attorney Moshe Lador. While Lador was the consummate criminal attorney, Nitzan’s
experience is primarily with human rights and international law. He defended the
interrogation methods of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) before the High
Court of Justice and in the Knesset; fought against the UN’s Goldstone Report,
which falsely accused Israel of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead; defended
the use of “targeted killings” under certain situations against terrorists; and
was involved in the Prisoner X Affair.
Nitzan has made enemies on the
Right due his support for administrative detention orders against settlers
suspected of violence against Palestinians and his decision to investigate
Hebron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior for allegedly inciting violence against
Nitzan’s appointment despite having less criminal law
experience is a testament to the tremendous respect Attorney-General Yehuda
Weinstein and others in the legal community have for his abilities as a
litigator. But this relative lack of background might make it harder for Nitzan
to perform his job if for no other reason than because of the perception that it
And attempts might be made on the Right to intimidate him,
particularly if he finds himself leading a high-profile case against a popular
Nitzan faces significant challenges, from the
rehabilitation of the state prosecution’s reputation to deciding whether or not
to indict figures in several conspicuous cases. His success will be the success
of the State of Israel.