High Court freezes Ohana's new state attorney appointment

Ohana: She will get the job • AG: Not on my watch

Amir Ohana at a special cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Amir Ohana at a special cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice froze acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s appointment of a new state attorney to replace Shai Nitzan minutes before she was due to be sworn in on Wednesday.
The quick decision was caused when, just hours before, The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel filed a petition with the High Court to block Ohana from appointing a candidate whom Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had opposed. The NGO announced the petition at 8:32 a.m., and the new acting state attorney-designate Orli Ben-Ari Ginzberg had been set to be sworn in at 11:00 a.m.
The High Court’s decision was publicized minutes before the ceremony was due to start, leading Ohana to take the stage. Ohana said that Ben-Ari, who has been the deputy central district attorney, would not be speaking. He vowed that “we will fight for” her to take office, and that “you will all still hear from her” at a later date. He also cited a range of top legal officials who had praised Ben-Ari.
In one of the most uncomfortable state ceremonies in recent memory, Mandelblit took the stage right after Ohana. Mandelblit reiterated that he “has no intention of compromising how we operate,” and that his reason to oppose Ohana’s candidature was to keep the state prosecution “independent and apolitical.” He added that he had tried to negotiate a compromise with Ohana, and “unfortunately this did not help” – but that his disagreement with him was “not personal.”
Although Ben-Ari was blocked from taking office, the ceremony did serve as Nitzan’s official retirement send-off. Nitzan expressed a characteristic, robust defense of his tenure, including his defense of the state’s security policies in the courts, fight of public corruption on the Left and Right, and increase in diversity of haredim, Ethiopians and Arabs within the state prosecution.
All sides have 10 days to file legal briefs to the High Court regarding the issue.
This all came after a rather dizzying Tuesday, as Ohana announced the appointment in the morning, Mandelblit publicly vetoed the appointment that afternoon, and Ohana announced by night that he would ignore the veto and scheduled an inauguration ceremony for the next morning.
Earlier Tuesday, Mandelblit explained his opposition by essentially categorizing Ben-Ari as a well-respected veteran, but who is a second- to third-level official who would not normally be considered for the top spot. Mandelblit said that normally, the top spot is filled by one of a few deputy state attorneys or one of the six district attorneys. The attorney-general added that Ben-Ari had even competed to become a district attorney three times and failed to be selected each time.
There is speculation that Ohana picked her due to this rejection, believing that she is angry with the top state prosecution echelon from being passed over for promotion and would be more open to his entreaties on various issues.
In the meantime, Mandelblit said that Ohana should endorse his pick of Deputy-State Attorney Shlomo Lemberger, who is viewed as Nitzan’s top deputy and the current number two prosecutor nationwide.
In addition, Daniel Hershkovitz, the representative for public service appointments, has also told Ohana he cannot support a replacement for Nitzan unless Mandelblit is onboard.
Ever since Sunday, when Nitzan’s term officially ended, there has been uncertainty about his replacement. In a standard situation in which the Knesset is in session and there is a permanent government, the attorney-general and Ohana would usually agree on a candidate picked by a highly structured legal committee, designed to prevent politicization of the process. Yet since the government is still a transitional one, there can be no selection committee, and no permanent replacement.
As a consequence of the delay in appointing a replacement for Nitzan is that final decisions about Shas leader Aryeh Deri’s case, UTJ leader Ya’acov Litzman’s case, Case 3000, the Submarine Affair and decisions on other major cases could be delayed.