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State prosecutor to fill in as attorney general until Mandelblit replacement found

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar says Amit Aisman will take over next month, as selection committee tasked with finding replacement unable to finish job in time

State Prosecutor Amit Eisman, at a ceremony at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem, on June 28, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
State Prosecutor Amit Eisman, at a ceremony at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem, on June 28, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Thursday that he will appoint State Prosecutor Amit Aisman as acting attorney general to fill the gap until a replacement is found for current Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, set to end his term at the end of the month.

Sa’ar said in a statement that it appeared the process to appoint a permanent attorney general would take until February at least.

Mandelblit, who retires on February 1 after six years in office, has ruled out extending his tenure.

The decision was made during a meeting between Sa’ar and the members of the Attorney General Selection Committee.

The selection committee on Wednesday published the final list of nine candidates for the position.

The list did not include Aisman.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar leads a New Hope faction meeting at the Knesset on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Three of the candidates that have Sa’ar’s backing are Roi Scheindorf, the current deputy attorney general for international law; Raz Nizri, the current deputy attorney general for constitutional affairs; and Gali Baharav-Miara, who previously served eight years as the Tel Aviv district attorney for civil affairs.

The list 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 selection committee only held its first meeting on the matter in mid-December.

Due to the importance of the role, the nomination usually must be agreed on unanimously by all members of the committee, and the nominee must go through a vetting process.

The panel is expected to send three candidates to Sa’ar, who will then appoint one of them attorney general, pending cabinet approval

Should Baharav-Miara or Agmon-Gonen be appointed they would the first women to hold the position.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit attends a confrence of the Association of Corporate Counsel, in Tel Aviv, on June 29, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

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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