Ohana's candidate for new state attorney appointment drops out

High Court had frozen process due to A-G opposition

Justice Minister Amir Ohana with Attorney Orli Ben-Ari, his choice to replace State Attorney Shai Nitzan (photo credit: JUSTICE MINISTRY)
Justice Minister Amir Ohana with Attorney Orli Ben-Ari, his choice to replace State Attorney Shai Nitzan
(photo credit: JUSTICE MINISTRY)
Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s candidate to replace State Attorney Shai Nitzan voluntarily took herself out of the running late Friday.
Orli Ben-Ari Ginzberg made the decision following the High Court of Justice’s decision on Wednesday freezing her appointment minutes before she was due to be sworn in.
The rapid decision came hours after the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel filed a petition Wednesday morning with the High Court to block Ohana from appointing a candidate who Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had opposed.
Intensifying the drama, the NGO announced the petition at 8:32 a.m., while Ben-Ari had been set to be sworn in at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
The High Court’s decision was publicized minutes before the ceremony was due to start, leading Ohana to take the stage noting that Ben-Ari Ginzberg, who has been the deputy central district attorney, would not be speaking, but vowing “we will fight for” her to take office and “you will all still hear from her” at a later date.
Ohana also cited a range of top legal officials who had praised Ben-Ari Ginzberg.
In one of the most awkward state ceremonies in recent memory resembling more of a divorce proceeding between officials who loath each other but must share the same stage, Mandelblit  spoke immediately after Ohana. He reiterated he “has no intention of compromising how we operate” and that he had opposed Ohana’s candidate in order to keep the state prosecution “independent and apolitical.”
He added he had tried to negotiate a compromise with Ohana, but that “unfortunately this did not help.” He noted his disagreement with the acting justice minister was “not personal.”
Ohana told Channel 13 he was disappointed and surprised she gave up the post, because the pressure she came under was completely expected. But he said it was better she give it up now and not later.
Ohana accused the State Prosecution of being “drunk with power.” He said he would take a few days to digest the news and then interview candidates again before deciding on a new candidate.
Blue and White MK Yael German praised Ben-Ari Ginzberg for giving up the post, saying “finally, a responsible adult has emerged amid the legal chaos Ohana caused.”
Labor-Gesher faction chairman Itzik Shmuli said her decision and her reasoning proved she is an honest and wise prosecutor who cares about the good of the legal system and the state.
“Even if it was late, it was a valiant, courageous and smart decision,” Shmuli wrote on Twitter.
Although Ben-Ari Ginzberg was blocked from taking office, the ceremony did serve as Nitzan’s official retirement send-off.
Nitzan made a characteristic robust defense of his tenure whether in terms of defending the state’s security policies in the courts, fighting public corruption on both the Left and the Right or increasing diversity of haredim, Ethiopians and Arabs in the state prosecution.
All of the sides now have 10 days to file legal briefs to the High Court on the issue.
In a dizzying Tuesday, Ohana announced the appointment in the morning, Mandelblit publicly vetoed the appointment that afternoon, and by that evening Ohana announced he would ignore the veto and scheduled the inauguration ceremony for Wednesday morning.
Earlier Tuesday, Mandelblit explained his opposition by essentially categorizing Ben-Ari Ginzberg (who has the same surname as the higher-ranked Liat Ben-Ari, prosecuting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) as a well-respected veteran, but who is still only a second to third level official who would not normally be considered for the top spot.
He 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 Ben-Ari Ginzberg had even competed to become a district attorney three times, and failed to be selected each time.
There is speculation Ohana picked her specifically due to this rejection, believing that she is angry with the top state prosecution echelon for being repeatedly passed over for promotion, and thus would be more open to his entreaties on various issues.
In the meantime, Mandelblit said Ohana should endorse his pick of Deputy State Attorney Shlomo Lemberger, viewed as Nitzan’s top deputy and the current number-two prosecutor nation-wide.
In addition, Daniel Hershkovitz, the representative for public service appointments, also told Ohana he cannot support a replacement for Nitzan unless Mandelblit is on board.
Since December 15, when Nitzan’s term officially ended, there has been uncertainty about his replacement.
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 the politicization of the process.
Yet, since the government is still a transitional one there can be no selection committee and no permanent replacement, only a temporary one.
One possible major consequence of the delay in appointing a replacement for Nitzan is that final decisions about Shas party leader Aryeh Deri’s case, UTJ party leader Ya’acov Litzman’s case, Case 3000, the Submarine Affair, and other major cases, could be delayed.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.