No replacement for State Attorney Shai Nitzan

Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit are negotiating, but position could remain vacant.

Shai Nitzan 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
Shai Nitzan 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
In a surprising development, no replacement was announced for State Attorney Shai Nitzan before he stepped down on Sunday night.
The Jerusalem Post spoke with spokespeople for both Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, the two main officials involved in selecting an acting replacement, and received different answers about how long the limbo situation will continue without a chief prosecutor for the nation.
However, both spokesmen confirmed that there would be no replacement announcement on Sunday, and that the position might remain vacant for an undefined period.
Whereas Ohana’s spokesperson indicated that there would likely be an agreed upon replacement sometime later this week with a gap of only a few days without a chief prosecutor, Mandelblit’s spokesperson said that the situation could go on indefinitely until a new government is formed after the March 2 election.
In a standard situation where 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.
But as the government is only transitional, there can be no selection committee and no permanent replacement, only a temporary one.
On December 2, Ohana tried to take action regarding the situation, saying he would soon appoint one of five candidates he listed as the acting state attorney.
Notably absent was Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari, who led the prosecution of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mandelblit responded to Ohana’s announcement saying that Deputy State Attorney for Criminal Matters Shlomo Lemberger should be appointed as Nitzan’s temporary replacement.
He added that because the government was transitional and because Ohana himself is only an acting justice minister, Ohana’s right to decide on a different candidate was limited.
Following that initial public conflict between the sides, two of Ohana’s candidates removed themselves from consideration.
Besides Lemberger, the other two potential candidates are deputy chief of the Central District Attorney’s Office Orli Ben Ari-Ginzburg and Economic Crimes Division director Dan Eldad.
On December 5, both Mandelblit and Ohana again staked out negotiating positions over who will determine Nitzan’s acting replacement.
From the Post’s conversations with the sides on Sunday, it appeared that Mandelblit’s strategy would be to say that if Ohana does not pick Lemberger, he will indefinitely delay agreeing to a replacement.
In the meantime, all six district attorneys will run their own office, and any question requiring a decision above their level will be made by Mandelblit.
Mandelblit’s spokesman said that the prosecution was able to operate in previous extended periods without a state attorney.
In contrast, Ohana had been looking to put his own stamp on the position since he has little authority he can exercise in his acting capacity.
This could pressure Ohana into eventually accepting Mandelblit’s choice.
Ohana could also try to appoint someone other than Lemberger, but Mandelblit has implied that if this occurred, he would refuse to defend the appointment when one of a number of groups inevitably challenged the appointment before the High Court of Justice.
One possible consequence of the delay is that final decisions about Shas party leader Arye Deri’s case, UTJ party leader Yaakov Litzman’s case, Case 3000 – the Submarine Affair – and other major cases could be delayed.