Prosecutor That Dealt With Netanyahu Investigations Tapped for State Prosecution

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Ami Aisman speaks at Haifa University, 2017.
Ami Aisman speaks at Haifa University, 2017.Credit: Haifa University Spokesperson's Office
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Haifa District Prosecutor Amit Aisman has been put forward by a search committee for the state prosecutor job, after a long saga left the post without a permanent owner since the last person to hold the position, Shai Nitzan, stepped down in December 2019.

 An experienced prosecutor, Aisman, who once came under fire for making inappropriate remarks in sexual harassment cases, was closely associated with corruption investigations into Netanyahu. 

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He previously served as deputy state prosecutor for special affairs under Shai Nitzan. In this role, he proposed charging the prime minister with breach of trust in case 2,000, which involves Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, who would be charged with giving a bribe. 

Most of the prosecutors involved in the Netanyahu cases, including Nitzan and Deputy State Prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari, thought Netanyahu should be charged with accepting a bribe. Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri thought the whole case should be closed. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit adopted Aisman’s idea in the end.

Mendelblit headed the search committee. Aisman was one of seven candidates he had recommended to then-Justice Minister Amir Ohana to serve as acting state prosecutor after Nitzan retired. Ohana rejected Mendelblit’s suggestions and chose the head of the prosecution’s economic department, Dan Eldad.

Ohana is a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the appointment was perceived as political, amid legal proceedings against Netanyahu on suspicion of corruption.

In May, the High Court blocked the extension of Eldad's term, reverting the duties of the state prosecutor to the office of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. 

The committee said that Aisman had “presented an organized and detailed manifesto for coping with the challenges faced by law enforcement,” and “a vision of public transparency and openness to criticism.” Committee members were left with the impression that he would be able to shore up public confidence in law enforcement. The committee also praised his legal ability, management skills and the way “he showed professional and ethical backbone when facing weighty challenges” in his previous positions..

Women's rights activists challenged the decision, based on previous accusations of sexually inapproriate conduct. In 2017 a female Haifa district prosecutor complained about Aisman, saying he routinely made unprofessional remarks and sexually explicit remarks, especially when dealing with sexual harassment cases. The Israel Women's Network, a women's rights advocacy group, blasted the decision, saying it encouraged women to "be quiet" in the face of abuse.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Jerusalem, May 2020.Credit: Alex Kolomoisky

The Civil Service Commission investigated the complaints at the time and found two of his comments inappropriate but did not deem them to constitute sexual harassment. Then-Justice Ministry Director General Emi Palmor issued a warning to Aisman about the matter.

The search committee said it had carefully considered the incident, but came to the conclusion that his problematic statements were not a fault that should block him from serving as state prosecutor. The committee also noted that he had expressed regret for his remarks and promised not to repeat such behavior.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, a Kahol Lavan lawmaker, expressed his confidence in Aisman, saying he will make a "brilliant state prosecutor... He will act independently and without bias to strengthen the rule of law."

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