Promotion of Prosecutor in Netanyahu's Cases Suspended Over Anonymous Complaint

'Concerned prosecutors' claim Liat Ben Ari's promotion should be halted because it is only being pushed due to her 'aggressive attitude' toward the premier

Liat Ben Ari during a conference in Tel Aviv, September 4, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

The promotion of the public prosecutor handling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption cases has been suspended, following an anonymous complaint letter that was penned by “concerned prosecutors.”

The prosecutors who signed the letter claim that Liat Ben Ari's appointment to next deputy state prosecutor for financial crimes was only intended to “keep her in the system” for her “aggressive attitude” toward Netanyahu.

Israel’s Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz ordered Sunday to delay the selection committee’s meeting, which was scheduled for Monday, after the letter claimed it was just going to rubber-stamp the pick by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who is set to end his six-year term at the end of 2019.

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“There is no justification for an outgoing state prosecutor to appoint in his last moment a deputy, which wouldn’t be his,” the anonymous letter read. "Any selection, any candidate, would be biased and wrong,” it added.

The letter further states that the bid for the senior position was published after the dismissal of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and before the appointment of Amir Ohana in her place, following a year in which the position hadn’t been manned since the resignation of the last deputy prosecutor, Yehuda Sheffer, and after a long time when no bid for it was published.

Shai Nitzan (left) and Avichai Mendelblit at a farewell event for former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Jerusalem, June 4, 2019.
Emil Salman

During that period, some State Prosecution officials expressed resentment for the fact that other candidates for the post had withdrawn from the race after learning it was being reserved for Ben Ari, who is considered to be Nitzan’s favorite. She is set to end her term at the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office Taxation and Economics Division in April 2020.

Nitzan, who is a member of the four-person selection committee, was pushing for Ben Ari’s appointment, the letter said. The prosecutors called to wait for the next state prosecutor to begin his term before a deputy is deputy is appointed for an eight-year period.

Civil Service Commissioner Hershkowitz updated Justice Minister Ohana on the turn of events, but the minister has no authority to intervene in appointments and both Hershkowitz’s office and that of the prosecutor general say he had no hand in the matters. After that conversation, Hershkowitz ordered the suspension of the bid. 

The Civil Service Commission said that it froze the nomination to look into the arguments made in the letter, in a process that would take "several days."

Last year, Haaretz revealed that Ben Ari said behind closed doors that the pace at which decisions are being made in Netanyahu’s cases is problematic. While her team, she complained, worked swiftly and efficiently, Nitzan and Attorney General Avhichai Mendelblit hold up their decisions for many weeks.