Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Monday recommended Gali Baharav-Miara as the next attorney general to replace Avichai Mandelblit.
The appointment of the former Tel Aviv district attorney for civil affairs is pending cabinet approval, which is expected next week. She would be the first woman to serve in the role.
“It is my duty and responsibility to get the best candidate for this position of unparalleled importance to the justice system — a responsibility I intend to fulfill with this appointment,” Sa’ar said in a statement on Monday.
“It is appropriate to appoint a woman to this position for the first time in the history of the country. But I suggest appointing attorney Baharav-Miara not for this reason, but because she is the best, most mature, most worthy candidate, and possesses the richest and most impressive professional and managerial background.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a joint statement with Sa’ar later Monday endorsing Baharav-Miara.
On Sunday, the race to replace Mandelblit entered the final stretch with the search committee tasked with finding a new attorney general announcing the names of the final three candidates.
The other two nominees were Roi Scheindorf, the current deputy attorney general for international law, and Defense Ministry legal adviser Itai Ofir.
Some analysts were surprised that Raz Nizri, the current deputy attorney general for constitutional affairs, was left out, and he announced Monday that he would resign after being skipped over.
In a statement, Nizri said he was caught off-guard, “like many others who were quite surprised (I’m choosing not to use other words that dozens of people from inside and externally wrote to me) by the fact that I was not included in the three candidates recommended by the panel.”
He added that he would pick a resignation date for the coming months and “strive to help during this period as much as possible,” while congratulating Baharav-Miara and the other two candidates on the shortlist.
Mandelblit ends his six-year term on Monday night, with State Prosecutor Amit Aisman set to serve as acting attorney general until a permanent replacement enters office.
In a farewell cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mandelblit took a thinly veiled swipe at the man who appointed him and whom he put on trial for corruption — former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in his latter years of office repeatedly attacked the police, the state prosecutors and the judiciary.
“There were those who tried to present the harm [they sought to cause] to the rule of law as an ideological move, under the pretext of ‘governance,’” he said. “But time and time again, we saw that what really stood behind these moves was a desire to advance personal interests, severely damaging the principle of fidelity to the public.”
Mandelblit’s replacement will have several high-profile cases to deal with. These include the whereabouts of state gifts given to 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 Mandelblit, reportedly coming close to a deal, in recent weeks.