The four leading candidates for the position of Israel's next attorney-general have become three, after Yedidya Stern announced on Wednesday morning that he was quitting the race in protest over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision not to split the current functions of the attorney-general into two separate positions.
In a letter he handed to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman on Monday, Stern, a Bar-Ilan University law professor and vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute, explained that he saw the split as a necessary move and could not take the coveted position in the current terms, since a jurist cannot have the expertise needed for the broad scope of the role, as it is currently molded.
After the search committee members gave up last week on agreeing among themselves who they recommend for the position, the cabinet had voted to empower Neeman to interview the four candidates who each received votes of recommendation from three members of the five-member selection committee, and choose - after opening up the decision to public debate - the person he thinks is most suitable for the job. It was during this interview that Stern informed the justice minister of his decision.
According to Stern, Neeman told him that he agreed with the content of the letter, but couldn't talk Stern out of his decision. "This is an important move in a person's careerâ€¦ this is a matter of principle, though Neeman was sorry to hear it," Stern said on Army Radio.
The Bar Ilan Professor also denied that he had pulled out of the race due to a previously unreported friendship with Neeman.
On Sunday, Neeman will present his choice of candidate for the position to the cabinet, and the ministers will be asked to vote. The three remaining candidates who received the sufficient approval of the search committee, and were interviewed by Neeman are attorney Yehuda Weinstein, Tel Aviv University law professor Daphna Barak-Erez and attorney Zvi Agmon. Neeman won't necessarily recommend one of the three.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.