Sa'ar recommends three candidates for next attorney-general

Raz Nizri, Gali Baharav-Miara — And in a surprise selection — Roy Schondorf have been named by Gideon Sa'ar as possible replacements for A-G Avichai Mandelblit come February.

 Gideon Sa'ar (photo credit:  Rami Zernger)
Gideon Sa'ar
(photo credit: Rami Zernger)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar has recommended Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri, former top ministry official Gali Baharav-Miara and Deputy Attorney-General for international affairs Roy Schondorf on Monday as candidates to replace Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit in February.

Nizri has been a front runner for replacing Mandelblit from the start, in part because of his experience as both Mandelblit’s and former attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein’s right-hand man.

Gali Baharav-Miara, the only female candidate, is a private-sector lawyer at Tadmor-Levy & Co. Previously, she was the head of Tel Aviv’s Civil Division and continues to hold roles involved in public policy issues.

Schondorf is a surprise selection. He’s been the deputy attorney-general for international affairs since 2013, advising the government on public international law, including treaty negotiations and international litigation.

Before working at the attorney-general’s office, Schondorf was the director of the Department of Special International Affairs for the State Attorney’s Office from 2009, and a senior official in the IDF’s International Law Division.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit –  responsible for the law, and not all aspects of the ethics and fate of the nation. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit – responsible for the law, and not all aspects of the ethics and fate of the nation. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

He has been responsible for building up the ministry’s international law units following the 2009 Goldstone Report to handle the increasing threats of war crimes charges from the International Criminal Court and foreign countries’ lawsuits.

Schondorf has also been involved in several important international negotiations on behalf of Israel, including with the ICC and peace negotiations with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians.

Mandelblit’s term as attorney-general expires on February 1, and Sa’ar has been careful in choosing the selection committee to get a new one who will support his objective of splitting the position into two roles: A chief legal adviser and a chief prosecutor. Another reason for Nizri’s front-runner position is because of his personal support for dividing the attorney-general role.

Former conservative chief justice Asher Grunis chairs the committee that also includes conservative New Hope MK Zvi Hauser and moderate conservative and former justice minister Dan Meridor.

Meridor was appointed after former justice minister Meir Sheetrit resigned due to an outcry over his being on the panel in light of prior sexual harassment complaints, which he controversially resolved in a confidential settlement.

The other two members on the panel are Israel Bar Association representative Tami Olman and academic representative Prof. Ron Shapira. Olman is not known as being particularly conservative and has battled to defend the judiciary from attacks by former justice minister Amir Ohana.

The fact that the candidates lack criminal prosecution experience could help pave the way for Sa’ar’s goal of splitting the position.

It is unclear if Sa’ar has the votes in the Knesset to split the position since virtually all former attorneys-general, the Supreme Court and left-wing parties in the coalition are expected to oppose such a split.

Sa’ar did say on Monday that he has the full support of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Specifically on Monday, Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli said she would continue to oppose any legislation in the Knesset for such a split. However, she said she would not comment on the candidates at this stage, which essentially means she is not exercising any public pressure on the issue.

If Sa’ar gets opposition support or cuts some broader deal giving left-wing parties some other victory they seek, he could pass his initiative.

Another possibility is for Sa’ar to merely request that the incoming attorney-general give State Attorney Amit Aisman complete autonomy in the prosecutorial sphere, achieving his goal in practice without changing any law.

Some reports have also expressed concern that the committee may fail to reach a consensus, which could either necessitate extending Mandelblit’s tenure or appointing one of the current senior Justice Ministry officials as acting attorney-general.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.