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 made a huge change in the Israeli economy,” Netanyahu said.
Neeman, an expert in tax law, was originally appointed Director General of the Finance Ministry in 1979 by 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 in office, despite the fact that he was not a member of Knesset.
Neeman resigned after just two months later when then-Attorney-General Michael Ben-Yair opening a criminal investigation against him on suspicions of two counts of of perjury in the trial of current Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee MK Aryeh Deri convicted for taking bribes. Neeman was 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 Herzog Fox & Neeman law firm
Neeman again resigned, and again was later cleared of charges by the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court.
Neeman, a close confidant of Netanyahu, was a controversial character due to the numerous investigations but also to his ambiguous statements made with regards to the place of Religious Law and the Knesset, and the possibility of Israel one day becoming a ruled by Jewish religious law.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked 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 has always been working in favor of the state.”