Yosef Harish, Former Attorney-General, Dead at 90

Appointed Attorney-General in 1986, Harish was involved in several notorious cases, including the Bus 300 affair and the trial of John Demjanjuk.

Yosef Harish, who served as attorney general and a judge, died Tuesday night in Tel Aviv. He was 90.

Harish, who was born in Jerusalem, studied in yeshiva and later earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He served in the Haganah and in the British army during World War II, and was an officer in the Israeli army during the War of Independence.

For approximately 30 years, Harish served as a judge in Tel Aviv District Court, eventually becoming the court’s vice president. In 1986 he was appointed attorney general in place of Yitzhak Zamir, who was dismissed over the Bus 300 incident (in which the Shin Bet security service tried to cover up the killing of two Palestinian terrorists who had been captured alive after hijacking a bus.)

“I may fall short of the attorney generals who preceded me in many things. But in one thing I do not fall short, even a little: in protecting the rule of law. I did not yield to the government even the tiniest bit when it came to the rule of law from the first day I served as attorney general to the last,” he said in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth when he retired.

During his term, Harish dealt with many incidents that reverberated in the media and among the public. These included the police investigation of the Bus 300 affair, in which the president at the time, Chaim Herzog, granted a controversial pardon to the Shin Bet security service operatives who were involved even before they stood trial, and his ruling that the bank managers involved in the 1983 bank scandal had not engaged in fraud.

Other significant cases he dealt with included the trial of Shas leader Aryeh Deri, the trial of accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, and the deportation of 418 Hamas operatives to Lebanon in 1992. During his term as attorney general, Harish prohibited political appointments in the civil service and required that a disciplinary hearing be held before an indictment was issued.