JERUSALEM, Dec. 3 (JTA) — Israel’s attorney general has announced that he plans to step down effective Jan. 1. When submitting his letter of resignation to Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Michael Ben-Yair gave no reason for his decision. Ben-Yair was appointed three years ago by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In recent months, he came under criticism by some in the Netanyahu government who said his decisions were politically motivated, and biased towards the views of the former Labor government. Ben-Yair opposed the appointment of Ya’acov Ne’eman as justice minister in the Netanyahu government, and subsequently recommended the criminal investigation that is currently underway against Ne’eman, who has since resigned from the Cabinet. News of Ben Yair’s decision prompted reaction from across the political spectrum. Finance Minister Dan Meridor, a former Justice Minister, said he regretted Ben-Yair’s decision to step down. “I think he was a good attorney general who withstood difficult conditions,” Meridor told Israel Radio. “I hope we will find another attorney general who will be able to continue the tradition in Israel of attorneys general, whose most important role is to preserve the rule of law.” In Israel, the attorney general is not a member of the government and traditionally his appointment is non-political. The Labor Party suggested that Ben-Yair may have been pushed out of the position and requested an urgent Knesset discussion on the matter. Meretz leader Yossi Sarid said the resignation was a blow to the stability of democracy in Israel. Meanwhile, Likud faction leader Michael Eitan said Ben-Yair’s political inclinations were towards those who had appointed him. Eitan said an attorney general’s views should be closer to the position of the current leadership.
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