Justice Minister Sa’ar Names Amit Aisman as Israel's New State Prosecutor

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Amit Aisman speaks at a Haifa University conference, 2017.
Amit Aisman speaks at a Haifa University conference, 2017.Credit: Haifa University
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Acting State Prosecutor Amit Aisman will be appointed to the position permanently, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said on Wednesday.

Aisman, 53, formerly served as Haifa District attorney, and before that as a deputy state prosecutor. He was involved in the decisions on whether to indict former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and on what charges.

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He was appointed to fill the position temporarily in January. Even though he was approved by a vetting committee back in November, the previous government never made his position permanent.

Last month, in response to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, the High Court of Justice gave the government 30 days to explain its failure to make the appointment permanent.

During a hearing on the petition, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said a permanent state prosecutor should have been appointed “yesterday.” The petition charged that Netanyahu, who is currently standing trial, “is doing everything possible to control key positions in the law enforcement system, and has therefore failed to appoint a state prosecutor for more than a year and a half in hopes of being able to influence the choice of the next prosecutor.” This failure, it added, severely undermined the rule of law.

Aisman is considered a brilliant jurist, but inattentive to public criticism, according to the committee's remarks. The search committee said he presented detailed ideas for coping with the challenges currently facing the law enforcement system

One reform he proposed is that the Justice Ministry department responsible for investigating police misconduct should no longer handle complex cases. Instead, such cases should be transferred to the district attorneys. He also proposed tightening supervision of the department by involving prosecutors from other departments in sensitive investigations, and said a new definition of what constitutes “reasonable force” by a police officer should be explored.

He also suggested creating an “innocence unit” within the prosecution whose job would be to identify cases that could lead to wrongful convictions before they get to court, and called for a mechanism for supervising police “deception operations” during interrogations. Aisman also proposed that such operations require approval from a district attorney or deputy state prosecutor.

To address the Arab community’s high crime rate, Aisman recommended that the prosecution seek stiffer penalties in cases involving violence and weapons offenses and agree to fewer plea bargains in such cases. He also proposed that every district attorney’s office open a hotline staffed by at least one Arabic speaker for telephone inquiries from crime victims.

Former Justice Minister Benny Gantz appointed Aisman despite offensive sexual comments he made to female subordinates.

Gantz said he was convinced that Aisman sincerely regretted these comments, and that they didn’t justify nixing the appointment.
When Aisman was district attorney, for instance, a female subordinate consulted him on a case in which the defense was pressing for a plea bargain. His response, she said, was, “You’re not a man, you don’t have balls, right? Because when you’re a man and your balls are squeezed, there’s a feeling of pain, but also a feeling of pleasure. And that’s what the defense is doing to us.”

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