Justice Minister's Pick for Acting State Prosecutor Reneges, Citing 'Witch Hunt'

Orly Ben-Ari Ginsberg, who was chosen for the job on Tuesday by Justice Minister Amir Ohana retracts agreement to lead the prosecution, saying her appointment was politicized

Justice Minister Amir Ohana with Orly Ben-Ari Ginsberg, deputy to the central district prosecutor, at a ceremony for the incoming state prosecutor in Jerusalem, December 18, 2019.
Ohad Zwigenberg

Orly Ben-Ari Ginsberg, who was recently chosen as Acting State Prosecutor by Justice Minister Amir Ohana in a process embroiled in controversy, retracted her agreement to lead the prosecution on Friday, just three days after she was appointed.

"In the past days, after about 30 years of professional and devoted work to the prosecution that is so dear to me and in which I believe, a witch hunt is underway in the justice system, and I am a part of it against my will," Ben-Ari Ginsberg explained.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit objected to the appointment, claiming that Ben-Ari Ginsberg, who previously served as the deputy central district prosecutor, does not meet the requirements of the job.

"I was chosen by the justice minister for the position of acting state prosecutor and I am qualified and confident in my ability and my qualifications to successfully fill the position," Ben Ari-Ginsberg wrote to Ohana. "The experience of turning my appointment into a political issue and its presentation as part of a process intended to harm the rule of law or the means of consideration of the prosecution, is regretful and contradicts my conduct and values."

Ben-Ari Ginsberg was to replace outgoing state prosecutor Shai Nitzan, whose term ended on Monday. On Wednesday, the High Court of Justice temporarily froze Ben-Ari Ginsberg's appointment before she had been due to swear in. The suspension order came in response to a petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.

The court gave the state 10 days to respond to the petition, which alleges that the appointment was unreasonable in the extreme and was motivated by extraneous considerations.

The petition claimed that appointing Ben-Ari Ginsberg was designed to undermine the power of “the gatekeepers and law enforcement officials connected to the investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” a reference to indictments that have been filed against the prime minister in three pending cases.

Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that Mendelblit would likely vehemently object if he thinks Ohana’s choice is not worthy of the post, possibly reaching the High Court of Justice if a court petition is filed against the appointment. He reportedly fears that given the corruption charges against Netanyahu, the current government is seeking to undermine law enforcement.

The current interim government is not authorized to make permanent senior appointments, and therefore once a new government is formed after Israel's March 2 election, it will appoint a search committee and choose Nitzan’s permanent replacement.

Following the appointment, Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz wrote in a letter to Ohana that the decision to appoint Ben-Ari Ginsberg "might destabilize the proper functioning of the State Prosecutor’s Office," due to her lack of senior experience.

"I would like to emphasize that my stance at this time is that the acting state prosecutor should hail from the senior echelon of the State Prosecutor's Office, which is in line with the attorney general’s recommendation," Hershkowitz wrote in an official letter to Ohana.