Amit Eastman nominated as next state attorney by Justice committee

The position has been mostly unfilled since December 2019.

A general view of the US Supreme Court building at sunset in Washington, US, November 10, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/ERIN SCOTT)
A general view of the US Supreme Court building at sunset in Washington, US, November 10, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ERIN SCOTT)
A special Justice Ministry selection committee on Monday night nominated Amit Eastman to be the next State Attorney, a powerful role which controls the nation’s entire prosecutorial apparatus.
If approved by the cabinet, Eastman could be involved in any later potential plea bargain negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decisions related to Shas party leader Aryeh Deri, UTJ party leader Yaakov Litzman and other major issues.
Because of those stakes, it is far from clear that the cabinet will approve Eastman.
The position has been mostly unfilled since December 2019 when Shai Nitzan stepped down, though Dan Eldad was briefly acting state attorney between March and May.
For most of the time since December 2019, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit himself took on the state attorney responsibilities, while delegating many duties to his next-in-line replacement, Deputy State Attorney Shlomo Lemberger.
Until a few weeks ago, the committee could not even meet due to opposition from the Likud, which appeared to want to impact who the lead candidates would be in a way that could potentially have positive effect on any future legal issues for Netanyahu.
At the same time, given that Netanyahu’s trial started in May, whoever becomes the next state attorney will have no real role at any time earlier than potential plea bargain negotiations, should that issue ever arise.
The selection committee was chaired by Mandelblit, while the other members included: Civil Service Commission Head Daniel Hershkowitz, Acting Director-General of the Ministry of Justice Sigal Yacobi, attorney Rachel Torah representing the Israel Bar Association and Prof. Oren Gazal-Eyal, representing the academic community.
They praised Eastman’s serving as the Haifa district attorney and in multiple acting deputy state attorney roles as well as decades of experience.
Further, they emphasized his leadership capacity to make necessary changes within the prosecutorial apparatus, including increasing public confidence.
The committee referenced a disciplinary hearing that Eastman was conducted in 2018 relating to sexist comments he had made in 2014 and 2008. The comments led to an inquiry about whether he had committed sexual harassment.
However, the committee said that Eastman took responsibility for the past statements, which it referred to as being in the distant past, and that he said he had learned his lesson.
The decision was a blow to Lemberger who many thought might be Mandelblit’s first choice, because they served so closely together in recent years.
One name which was not on the final list was that of Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben Ari, who never submitted her candidacy despite expectations that she would be among the top picks.
Ben Ari is the lead lawyer against Netanyahu and was the lead lawyer in the Holyland corruption trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Despite her record of top cases, she said she could not be both state attorney and continue to lead the Netanyahu trial. There were expectations that the Likud Party would oppose her more than any other candidate.
Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn praised Eastman and said he was sure that he would be independent and unbiased.
Media reports speculated that the pick came now to get it in before election season starts to increase the public pressure and raise the possibility that the Likud might approve the nomination.