Several big cases, possible Netanyahu plea deal await new AG

Final 3 candidates for new attorney general said set to be announced Sunday

Justice Minister Sa’ar will then pick Avichai Mandelblit’s successor out of shortlist, pending cabinet okay; frontrunner said to be ex-Tel Aviv district attorney Gali Baharav-Miara

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar, left, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, center, and State Prosecutor Amit Aisman attend a ceremony at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, June 28, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar, left, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, center, and State Prosecutor Amit Aisman attend a ceremony at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, June 28, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The search committee to find a new attorney general will reportedly end its work on Sunday evening, when it is expected to hand the names of the final three candidates to Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar. Sa’ar will then, within a week, pick one of them to succeed Avichai Mandelblit after his six years in the role, pending government approval.

The committee will convene Sunday evening, and even though it can continue its discussions for several more days, Hebrew media reports have indicated that its members are interested in concluding the discussions early.

Mandelblit ends his term on Monday night, with State Prosecutor Amit Aisman set to serve as acting attorney general until a permanent replacement enters office.

The selection committee is headed by former Supreme Court chief justice Asher Grunis and includes former justice minister Dan Meridor, New Hope MK Zvi Hauser, Israel Bar Association representative Tami Ulman, and law professor Ron Shapira, the president of the Peres Academic Center.

The selection committee published the final list of nine candidates for the position earlier this month. Any name presented to Sa’ar must be agreed upon by at least four of the five members, and the nominee must go through a vetting process.

Gali Baharav-Miara (Courtesy)

Reports have indicated that Sa’ar’s preferred choice is Gali Baharav-Miara, who previously served eight years as the Tel Aviv district attorney for civil affairs. Channel 13 news reported Saturday that Baharav-Miara is expected to be included in the names presented to the justice minister and is, therefore, the frontrunner to get the position.

Two other candidates have been recommended to the committee by Sa’ar. One of them is Raz Nizri, the current deputy attorney general for constitutional affairs.

Raz Nizri, deputy attorney general, during a House Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 21, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The other is Roi Scheindorf, the current deputy attorney general for international law.

The list of candidates also includes judge Michal Agmon-Gonen; Defense Ministry legal adviser Itai Ofir; Bar-Ilan University law professor Ariel Bendor; head of the Kohelet Policy Forum Dr. Aviad Bakshi; Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon; and Hebrew University law professor Barak Medina. (The following photos of them are in that order.)

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon at a meeting of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, February 23, 2016.
(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Either Baharav-Miara or Agmon-Gonen, if appointed, would become the first woman to hold the position.

Whoever is selected to replace Mandelblit will have several high-profile cases to deal with. They include the whereabouts of state gifts given to Benjamin Netanyahu that the former premier was ordered to return; a gift of $20,000 that an Australian billionaire gave to ex-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen; and the alleged harassment of state’s witness Shlomo Filber by two Netanyahu aides.

The new appointee will also have to determine whether and how to proceed with negotiations on a plea bargain for Netanyahu, who is on trial in three graft cases and whose lawyers negotiated with Mandeblit, reportedly coming close to a deal, in recent months.

Sa’ar has been seeking to split the attorney general job into two, with one person serving as the government’s legal adviser and another as chief state attorney. He and other conservative critics have argued that the dual role creates a conflict of interest, as the attorney general is tasked with overseeing the prosecution of members of the government whose moves he is also charged with defending.

Mandelblit appeared to strongly denounce Sa’ar’s proposal to split the role in October as a threat to democracy.

Previous attempts to split the role were widely seen as motivated by political or personal interests, since they typically came from governments whose then-prime ministers were facing criminal indictment — including Ehud Olmert in 2007-2008, and Benjamin Netanyahu several years ago.

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