Former Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman passes away

Religious cabinet minister, who served Begin and Netanyahu governments, passes away at age 77.

David Rosenberg ,

Yaakov Neeman
Yaakov Neeman

Former Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who twice served in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, passed away on Sunday at the age of 77. He is survived by his wife and their six children.

Though he never served as an MK, Neeman served as a senior official in Likud governments going back to Menachem Begin’s first coalition in the 1970s.

Born in 1939 to a national-religious family, Neeman was a serious Torah scholar and earned law degrees from Hebrew University and NYU, eventually becoming one of Israel’s most prominent jurists.

After opening a private practice in 1972, which became Israel's leader law firm, Herzog Fox & Neeman, Neeman was tapped by Prime Minister Begin to serve as Finance Ministry Director General in 1979.

Neeman later served terms as Justice Minister and Finance Minister during the first Netanyahu government beginning in 1996. As Justice Minister, it was known that he intended to introduce reforms in the system. Shorty after his impending appointment was made public, he was accused by the media of having given a false affidavit and false witness. Ne'eman resigned immediately, defended himself in court and was fully exonerated and found innocent.

He had strong criticism for the legal department of the Justice Ministry, claiming that false accusations and investigations were being used as a tool to prevent persons from being appointed to government positions, including former CoS Refael Eitan and current president Rubi Rivlin.

Neeman, an intrepid fighter for what he felt was right, wished to separate the Israeli Attorney General's role into two parts, claiming that there is a conflict of interest and too much responsibility in being legal counsel for the Government and public authorities, directing the state prosecution and supervising the legal department that prepares and reviews proposed legislation.

He was a dominant figure in his ministerial positions, heading, for example, the Neeman Committee for Conversion Standards, where he led negotiations with the Reform and Conservative movements to accept the Israeli Rabbinate's definition of conversion.

He returned as Justice Minister during Netanyahu’s second term, from 2009-2013 when, due to Neeman's abilities, Yisrael Beytenu agreed to give up their demand to keep Daniel Freedman in the post..In 2012 he proposed a law limiting the Supreme Court's ability to countermand legislation by the Knesset.