As Israel's State Prosecutor Steps Down, Controversy Over His Successor Heats Up

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan's six-year term ends Monday, but the justice minister and attorney general seem to disagree over a temporary replacement

Netael Bandel
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Outgoing State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.
Outgoing State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Netael Bandel

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan will step down Monday after six years on the job, though Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit don't see eye to eye on who will be the replacement, legal sources said.  

Ohana must name Nitzan’s temporary replacement on Monday. Once a new government is formed after Israel's March 2 election, it will appoint a search committee and choose Nitzan’s permanent replacement.

Mendelblit announced that he favors the deputy state prosecutor for criminal affairs, Shlomo Lemberger, as acting state prosecutor, but Ohana is believed to prefer Dan Eldad, the head of the economic department at the State Prosecutor’s Office.  

Ohana, however, has reservations about scuffling with Mendelblit over the appointment, especially because Lemberger is also on Ohana’s list of candidates. Meanwhile, Eldad’s chances have grown because Ohana does not want to be seen as someone who gave in to legal officials during an election campaign, the sources said.

Regarding his plans for the future, Nitzan reportedly told a friend recently: “Read my lips, I’m not going to be a Supreme Court justice. It’s not my nature.”

Nitzan was a colorful state prosecutor, possibly the most colorful in Israel’s history. Every interview ended with something sensational, every speech made headlines. He is considered someone to be either loved or hated, a person with a sense of humor and a sharp tongue. Some observers went so far as to call him a bull in a china shop.