Again defying AG, justice minister taps top prosecutor as acting state attorney
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Again defying AG, justice minister taps top prosecutor as acting state attorney

Possibly reigniting feud with Mandelblit over his caretaker powers, Amir Ohana announces he has picked Dan Eldad as the new temporary head of the state prosecution

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (L) and Justice Minister Amir Ohana attend an annual Justice Ministry conference in Airport City outside Tel Aviv on September 3, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (L) and Justice Minister Amir Ohana attend an annual Justice Ministry conference in Airport City outside Tel Aviv on September 3, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Justice Minister Amir Ohana announced Sunday he had decided to appoint Israel’s top white-collar crimes prosecutor as acting state attorney, in a move that may reignite his December feud with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over his authority to do so.

Ohana’s candidate, Dan Eldad, currently serves as the director of the Economic Crimes Division of the State Prosecution, which specializes in investigating and prosecuting high-level corruption in government and large corporations. It is also responsible for the most complex cases of financial fraud.

“His enormous experience and knowledge led me to the conclusion that [Eldad] is the right person to lead the state prosecution at this time,” Ohana said in a statement Sunday.

Mandelblit opposes Eldad’s appointment, Hebrew media outlets reported, though the reasoning for his opposition was not immediately clear. According to the Calcalist paper, Mandelblit offered Ohana seven names of candidates acceptable to him, which did not include Eldad.

The state attorney position became vacant when Shai Nitzan concluded his five-year term in December.

Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari attends a farewell ceremony held for outgoing Israeli state attorney Shai Nitzan in Jerusalem, on December 18, 2019 (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Ohana’s last attempt to appoint an acting state attorney — choosing Tel Aviv District economic crimes prosecutor Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari in December — fell through when Ginsberg Ben-Ari withdrew her candidacy following a firestorm of criticism at her selection, including by the attorney general.

Mandelblit has insisted Ohana’s authority to appoint key officials is limited because he serves as a caretaker justice minister in an unelected government. Ohana was appointed to his post by Netanyahu in June, after the indecisive April election and ahead of the equally indecisive September race.

Mandelblit suggested Ohana appoint one of the state attorney’s currently serving deputies to the temporary post, and said his preference was Deputy State Attorney for Criminal Law Shlomo Lamberger, the longest-serving member of that echelon.

Ohana, meanwhile, has insisted that Mandelblit’s opposition to his appointments was an example of the runaway powers of the state legal bureaucracy, which he says should not flout the will of elected officials.

But the Ginsberg Ben-Ari appointment drew criticism not only from Mandelblit.

Dan Eldad, head of the Economic Crimes Division of the State Prosecution. (State Prosecution website portrait)

Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkovitz, a former right-wing politician and ex-science minister, also protested Ohana’s December appointment, saying he was not consulted as required by law and suggesting the temporary elevation of a mid-level prosecutor could throw the state prosecution’s hierarchy and workflow into chaos.

On Sunday, Ohana seemed keen to neutralize such criticism over his newest candidate.

His office said Eldad’s selection was carried out “in coordination with the civil service commissioner,” and that Ohana went “above and beyond the requirements of the law” by consulting “also with the attorney general.”

“I hope and believe this appointment will contribute to strengthening the public’s trust in the law enforcement system. I know that’s Attorney Eldad’s goal. I was impressed by his deep sense of service, and I wish him much success.”

Eldad has served as a prosecutor for 27 years, and has led the elite Economic Crimes Division since 2013.

There was no immediate response to the announcement from Mandelblit or his office.

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