Former Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman Dies at 77

Neeman, who was born to a religious family in Tel Aviv in 1939, served as both Justice Minister and Finance Minister in governments headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Michal Fattal

Israel's former justice minister Yaacov Neeman died on Sunday at the age of 77. Neeman's funeral will be held on Monday at noon at Heichal Shlomo and the burial will be on the Mount of Olives. 

Neeman served in the posts of Justice and Finance minister in the first government of Benjamin Netanyahu between 1996 and 1999, despite not being a member of the Knesset.

His term at Justice was cut short after only two months, after then-Attorney General Michael Ben Yair ordered a police investigation into allegations that Neeman had attempted to suborn a witness in the trial of Aryeh Dery, who was later convicted of curroption charges and is now Israel's the interior minister.

Neeman resigned from the cabinet, but was reinstated as Finance Minister in July 1997, after being cleared of the charges.

He returned to the Justice Ministry in Netanyahu's second government between 2009 and 2013.

Yaakov Neeman was born to a religious family in Tel Aviv in 1939. After doing his military service with the Golani Brigade, he earned a law degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and subsequently a master's degree in law from New York University.

Together with Chaim Herzog, later Israel's sixth president and father of the current head of Israel's opposition Isaac Herzog, he established the Herzog Fox & Neeman law firm in Tel Aviv in 1972.

Neeman's government career began when he was appointed director general of the finance ministry in 1979, a post he held until 1981. He also held a variety of public positions during his lifetime, including public committees to determine the salaries of government officials and for the drafting of a constitution.

He also served on the Israel Atomic Energy Committee and on the Central Committee of the World Bank.

Neeman leaves behind his wife Hadassah and six children.

Eulogizing Neeman on Sunday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as being "among the leading jurists in the country, fiercely intelligent and with a warm Jewish heart."

Neeman, Netanyahu continued, had "strong nationalist beliefs, but with that, he would always search for ways of compromise and dialogue."  

"The Justice system bows its head at the bitter news of Yaakov Neeman's passing," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Sunday night. She described Neeman as "a man of great stature, who knew how to combine Torah and action. He was always prepared to act for the sake of the country."

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said "we blow our heads" at Neeman's passing, praising his combined academic and political career, and his "constant quest for excellence."

Isaac Herzog, head of the opposition Zionist Union party, eulogized Neeman as a close friend and teacher for dozens of years "a man with a big heart and broad horizions, he always gave priority and its need to achieve unity."