Former minister of Justice and Finance Yaakov Neeman died on Sunday following a battle with an illness. He was 77 and is survived by his wife and six children.
Prime Minister Netanyahu praised Neeman as one of Israel’s leading jurists and mourned the loss of a “dear friend.”
“Yaakov Neeman was one of the leading jurists in this country, a sharp mind with a warm Jewish heart. He held strong nationalist views, and always endeavored to find the path of compromise and dialogue, as he did when he led with sensitivity and wisdom the committee on the subject of conversion. I found in him a wonderful partner for public action. As minister of Finance, he led and supported important reforms, primarily the opening of the foreign exchange market, which had a huge impact on Israeli economy,” Netanyahu said.
Neeman, an legal expert on taxation, was originally appointed director general of the finance Ministry in 1979 by then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a position he served until in 1981. Later, in 1996, he was appointed minister of Justice during Binyamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, despite not being a member of the Knesset.
Neeman resigned just two months later, when then-Attorney-General Michael Ben-Yair opened a criminal investigation against him on suspicions of two counts of of perjury in the trial of Aryeh Deri, who was convicted for bribery. Neeman was eventually cleared of all charges.
After serving as minister of Finance between 1997 and 1998, Neeman was re-appointed Minister of Justice when Netanyahu was re-elected in 2009, a position he served until 2013. During his tenure, the Israel Tax Authority revealed it had been investigating Neeman for tax evasion, which had allegedly occurred during his years as a partner in the renowned law firm Herzog, Fox & Neeman.
Neeman again resigned, and again was later cleared of charges by the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court.
A close confidant of Netanyahu, Neeman was a controversial character due to the numerous investigations but also dueto his ambiguous statements made with regard to the place of religious law and the Knesset, and the possibility of Israel one day coming under Jewish religious law.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) further stated: “The entire Justice Department bows his head at the news of the death of Prof. Yaakov Neeman, a man of great stature, who managed to combine Torah and implementation, and had always worked in favor of the state.”
Another official to eulogize Neeman was Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union), whose father, former prime minister Haim Herzog was Neeman's partner at Herzog Fox & Neeman.
“Prof. Neeman, a former Justice and Finance, was a mentor and close friend for tens of years. He was a tender-hearted, broad-minded and generous man who supported serving in the Israeli Military, connecting between different sectors of Israeli society, a brilliant legal expert and one with a substantial and important for the State of Israel and its citizens,” said Herzog.
“He always saw the good of the country and the unity of our people as his top priority, and he acted to achieve these goals.”