Nitzan approved for deputy A-G despite settler doubt

Settlement leaders consider Shai Nitzan a red-flag as he has approved many administrative detention orders against settlers.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370 (photo credit: Pool/Eli Selman)
Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370
(photo credit: Pool/Eli Selman)
The cabinet on Sunday approved the appointment of Shai Nitzan as deputy attorney-general for special projects after Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman assured Likud ministers that Nitzan would not be dealing with settlement-related issues.
Nitzan is considered a red flag by many settlement leaders because in previous positions he has approved numerous administrative detention orders against settlers. He was also a key figure in deciding to investigate rabbis Dov Lior and Ya’acov Yosef for their connections to the book Torat Hamelech, which says it is permissible in some situations according to Jewish law to kill non- Jews. Neither Yaakov or Lior were ultimately indicted.
The cabinet also approved the the appointment of Dina Zilber as deputy attorney-general.
Neeman said she would replace Deputy Attorney-General Mike Blass and would deal with issues he previously dealt with, including matters relating to the settlements.
Neeman’s clarification paved the way for right-leaning ministers, who had previously opposed the measure, to support Nitzan’s two-year appointment.
Within the Justice Ministry Nitzan is considered a non-ideological career attorney who is not afraid to ruffle feathers if he believes that enforcing the law demands particular actions.
Most of Nitzan’s career has had little to do with confrontation over settlement issues, and he is likely most well-known within the ministry for being one of the leaders of the government’s response against the 2009 UN Goldstone Report.
Most within the ministry do not consider him anti-settler as much as unwaveringly committed to the rule of law.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the appointments of the Nitzan and Zilber were worthy ones. He thanked Blass for his work.
Among those swayed to support Nitzan’s appointment was Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud), who initially expressed concern that, “once again we are giving the impression that we are making a contentious appointment.”
Recently there have been a number of disagreements between the High Court of Justice and the government, he said.
“We want to ensure that the government’s position will be represented,” he added. But he voted for it after assurances from Neeman on the settlement issue.
But Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi), who announced prior to the meeting that the would reject the appointment, made good on his word.
He said there was a “deep crisis of faith” between the settlers and the Attorney-General’s Office, charging that the office was trying to set settlement policy rather than give legal assistance to the government.
The appointment of Nitzan would not rebuild confidence in the Attorney-General’s Office, but rather deepen this crisis, he said.
Government Services Minister Michael Eitan and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat abstained from the vote.
Livnat said she did not want to comment on Nitzan, but rather objected to technical issues that related to his appointment, such as the absence of a tender or a search committee.
But MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) was not convinced that Nitzan’s role with regard to settlements had been neutralized. “The Likud has sold the state to the Left wing,” he charged. He warned that at the end of the day, Nitzan would become the attorney-general and then president of the High Court.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said the appointment raises the question as to whether it is comfortable for Netanyahu to have a prosecutor’s office that is hostile to the settlements. Nitzan has proved that he has a clear agenda against the settlements, Ariel said.
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) said, “the cat can not guard the cream, even if Bibi [Netanyahu] promises he will.”
Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir said he was considering filling a petition to the High Court against Nitzan’s appointment.