PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu moved swiftly Wednesday to name Liran Dan as
his new communications director, following the resignation of Yoaz Hendel over
the Natan Eshel affair.
The prime minister also met Wednesday with “R.,”
the woman Eshel harassed, and said he understood that it has been a difficult
period for her, that she should be strong, and that in a short while things
would “calm down.”
The meeting with R. came after Netanyahu came under a
great deal of criticism for praising Eshel for his service, but not giving any
support for his three top advisers – Hendel, cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser, and
military attaché Yohanan Locker – who complained about Eshel’s behavior toward
R. to the attorney-general.
Dan, who Hendel brought in to head the Prime
Minister’s Office media and spokesman’s unit in August, will be Netanyahu’s
fifth communications director since coming to power in 2009. Hendel only lasted
six months in the position.
Prior to joining the Prime Minister’s Office,
Dan served for four years as Channel 2 News’ deputy managing director. He
established its interactive unit and was the chief editor of its website. From
2004 to 2007, he edited Channel 2’s main news program after having previously
developed its weekend news format.
In a statement issued by the Prime
Minister’s Office, Netanyahu said he agreed with Hendel about the termination of
his services. He thanked Hendel for his “many contributions” to Israel’s public
On Monday, Netanyahu told Hendel and Hauser that he lost
confidence in them because they went directly to the attorney-general – and did
not inform him beforehand. Hendel submitted his resignation
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The announcement of Hendel’s resignation came just three
days after Eshel signed a plea bargain agreement where he admitted to unbecoming
behavior, and agreed to leave his highly influential post and never return to
the civil service.
Channel 2 reported that he will receive a NIS 120,000
The upheaval came less than two weeks before Netanyahu
will travel to the US for a meeting with President Barack Obama. He will do so
without his trusted chief of staff, who has since been replaced by Gil Sheffer,
and without Hendel. R., who would ordinarily also travel with the prime minister
on this type of trip, is also not expected to take part.
Hauser has not
given any indication that he intends to immediately follow Hendel and resign,
sources said. A visibly annoyed Netanyahu was caught on film Sunday, shortly
after he learned that Eshel would have to leave his post, chastising Hauser at
the weekly cabinet meeting for not locking the door to the cabinet
Locker is expected to be named to another IDF post in the near
future, but this move is unrelated to the Eshel affair
Netanyahu publicly referenced the scandal for the first time. Asked at a press
conference dealing with economic issues why he did not publicly back up his
three senior advisers, the prime minister replied that it was “inappropriate” to
hear about such a major incident taking place in his office from the
“I will say what I think is the appropriate behavior, and what is
not,” Netanyahu said. “What is appropriate is that if there is a suspicion of
harassment, it needs to be dealt with according to the law. That is
exactly what I would have done.”
What is inappropriate, he said, is for
the person at the top of the pyramid not to “know that something so central is
happening in his office for a month and a half, and that he needs to read about
it in the newspapers and hear about it in the media.”
“That is a tough,
hurtful, uncomfortable situation,” he said.
Netanyahu added that he
wished this would be the greatest challenge Israel had to face. “Israel has much
greater challenges,” he added.
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