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Selection panel agrees on new state prosecutor; women’s network protests

Haifa’s Amit Aisman unanimously backed; likely to face pushback from Netanyahu, whose criminal case he worked on; made sexually explicit remarks to female subordinates years ago

Haifa District Prosecutor Amit Aisman. (Justice Ministry)
Haifa District Prosecutor Amit Aisman. (Justice Ministry)

A selection committee unanimously agreed Monday to nominate Haifa District Prosecutor Amit Aisman to become the country’s next state prosecutor.

The appointment still requires approval from the government, where Aisman’s nomination could run into obstacles, due to tensions within the unity government over the installation of senior officials.

Israel has been without a state prosecutor since December 2019, with the end of the term of Shai Nitzan. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has been serving as acting state prosecutor in the meantime.

In its recommendation, the five-member committee chaired by Mandelblit said that Aisman, who beat out nine other candidates, came highly recommended by senior figures in the justice system.

“He has many years experience in the state prosecution, and in recent years filled the highest positions in the organization,” the committee wrote.

It praised his “exceptional legal skills, excellent management ability, integrity and reliability, [and] ability to withstand pressure.

Aisman has “demonstrated a professional and value-supported backbone in the face of weighty challenges,” the panel wrote.

The committee noted that it had also taken into consideration sexually explicit remarks that Aisman made on two occasions to female subordinates over a decade ago and that the deputy director of the Justice Ministry found were unbecoming of a civil servant. He was issued a warning at the time as part of an internal disciplinary proceedings.

“The committee was persuaded that these remarks, which were made many years ago, do not characterize Aisman’s work and his behavior,” the committee said, and noted that Aisman had deep regret, took responsibility for his actions, and had learned the necessary lessons.

The remarks, it found, do not amount to a “defect that prevents him from serving as state attorney.”

However, the Israel Women’s Network called the selection “improper.”

Aisman’s appointment to “such an important position as the state prosecutor, and the attempts to make light of his blatantly sexual remarks in order to legitimize the choice is improper,” the women’s rights lobby said.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn welcomed the committee’s decision, tweeting that Aisman will be “an excellent state prosecutor.”

“Not for nothing was he unanimously chosen by the placement committee, even though he competed against excellent candidates,” he wrote.

Channel 13 news reported that there was some surprise in the Justice Ministry at Aisman’s selection over current Deputy State Prosecutor Shlomo Lemberger.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn seen at the Knesset, October 21, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Aisman’s nomination must still be approved by the government, which is teetering on the edge of collapse, with speculation rampant that new elections will be called in the coming days.

As part of their coalition agreement, Likud and Blue and White agreed to put off any senior nominations that they were likely to clash over. However, at the start of October, Gantz said it was time to end the “chaos” in the government and fill senior law enforcement posts that have long been manned by temporary stopgaps.

Nissenkorn began the process to select a new state attorney, including convening the committee, despite no agreements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on the matter.

Netanyahu, on trial in three corruption cases, is seen as unlikely to agree to the Blue and White minister’s preferred pick for the state prosecutor post.

Aisman was part of the team of prosecutors who worked on the cases against the prime minister, and was reportedly also the preferred choice of the previous state prosecutor, Shai Nitzan, who recommended that Netanyahu be charged.

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