By RON FRIEDMAN, HERB KEINON
Cabinet ministers on Sunday confirmed Justice Minister Ya'acov Neeman's nomination of Yehuda Weinstein as Israel's next attorney general.
Weinstein will assume his duties next summer once current Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz resigns.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commended the outgoing attorney-general, turning to him at one point and saying, "You have done a fine job under difficult conditions."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak phoned Weinstein after the cabinet made its decision to offer his congratulations.
In a statement released following his appointment, Weinstein thanked the government for its faith in him, and said that he was well aware of "the awesome responsibility" of being attorney-general.
Weinstein started his legal career in the Chief Prosecutor's Office. In 1979 he left public service and opened a private law office, where he went on to argue some of the most high-profile cases in the country's legal history.
Weinstein had been discussed for the attorney- general's role once before, in 2004, but withdrew his candidacy before the final decision was made and Mazuz was chosen.
The decision to nominate a candidate for the role of attorney-general fell to Neeman after a special five-person search committee failed to agree on a single candidate within the allotted time and ended up proposing four candidates, narrowed down from a list of 11.
The list shrunk further when Yedidya Stern, a leading candidate and a law professor at Bar-Ilan University backed out of the race, saying he would have preferred to see the attorney general's responsibilities split.
Weinstein, 66, is married with three children and is considered one of the leading criminal attorneys in Israel. His elevation marks the first time in Israeli history that an attorney from the private sector will assume the role of attorney general.
Weinstein's most notable past clients include Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former president Ezer Weizmann.
Ron Friedman contributed to this reportPregnant woman killed in criminal stabbing in Lod