Despite qualms from right, Shai Nitzan picked as next state prosecutor

Deputy attorney general known for fighting settler extremists is tapped to take over post from Moshe Lador in December

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Shai Nitzan, center, speaking to the press in 2008. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Shai Nitzan, center, speaking to the press in 2008. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan, pilloried by Israel’s far right wing for prosecuting radical members of the settler movement, was chosen to become the country’s next state prosecutor, a search panel announced Tuesday morning.

Nitzan’s promotion will still have to pass cabinet approval before he can take the post.

Nitzan is set to replace Moshe Lador, who is finishing his six-year term in December. Nitzan will also serve for six years if he is approved, which is seen as a formality following his nomination.

Nitzan was nominated in a majority decision by a five-member panel headed by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, and was selected from a final pool of four candidates.

As state attorney, Nitzan will lead the office that represents the government and the State of Israel in legal matters, and oversee the country’s system of district attorneys.

Nitzan is known for representing the state in numerous criminal trials against extremists from the settler movement, and as a result has been the subject of heavy criticism and threats from elements on the right, who have said they will work to block his nomination.

On Tuesday, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) said that he would vote against Nitzan’s nomination, and right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir said that his nomination was “a black day for the justice system.”

According to Ynet news, Nitzan, who at the time was head of special cases at the State Prosecutor’s Office, approved putting Mossad spy Ben Zygier in solitary confinement. Zygier, until recently known as “Prisoner X,” committed suicide in his cell in 2010, with the high-profile case coming out into the open earlier this year.

In announcing the nomination, which came after hours of debate, Attorney General Weinstein said the results were not swayed by a right-wing media campaign aimed at influencing the committee against nominating Nitzan.

On Tuesday, Nitzan told Ynet News that it was “a great honor” to be nominated, but that he would “patiently wait” for final approval before taking up the “important and serious” position.

Nitzan, 54, is a graduate of the Hebrew University and a former paratrooper. He is a Jerusalem native and a father of five.

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