Netanyahu's inner circle shrinks as top official leaves job

Yaakov Nagel was a key foreign policy advisor to the PM, and his leaving follows quickly on the heels of the exit of another key prime ministerial advisor, Ran Baratz.

March 26, 2017 17:22
2 minute read.
aid to israel

Yaakov Nagel and Thomas A. Shannon sign the 10-year defense agreement. (photo credit: ISRAELI EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's small inner circle is getting smaller still, as Yaakov Nagel, the acting head of the National Security Council, attended his last cabinet meeting in that capacity on Sunday.

Nagel took over this role in January 2016, when the former head of this agency, Yossi Cohen, was appointed head of the Mossad.

Netanyahu's candidate to replace Cohen, Avriel Bar-Yosef, eventually withdrew his name from contention and is currently a suspect in conspiring with a German businessman to promote personal business interests surrounding the development of the Tamar and Leviathan gas reserves.

So in the interim, Nagel - a deputy head of the NSC since 2011 -- stepped in on a temporary basis in the number one slot. He was instrumental in hammering out the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US last year governing military assistance to Israel over the next decade. In November, he declined an offer by Netanyahu to become the permanent head of the NSC, citing “personal reasons” for not taking the job.
Rice: Military aid deal, a memorandum of understanding, is win-win for US, Israel

A spokesman in the Prime Minister's Office said that “there is nothing yet to say” about who will be Nagel's replacement.

Nagel was a key foreign policy advisor to Netanyahu, and his leaving follows quickly on the heels of the exit of another key prime ministerial advisor, Ran Baratz, who left as Netanyahu’s top media advisor in the beginning of February. Baratz has still not been replaced.

Chief-of-staff Yoav Horowitz has emerged in recent weeks as a key player inside the PMO, as evidenced by the fact that he led Israel's team to Washington last week for discussions on drawing up guidelines on building in the settlements. He was joined by the NSC’s Jonathan Schachter, who is emerging as Netanyahu's key foreign policy advisor.

Netanyahu took leave of Nagel at the weekly cabinet meeting, noting that it was Nagel’s last meeting, and saying he has “been exceptional in filling the role of head of the National Security Council.” He also pointed out that Nagel, a retired brigadier general, has filled a wide variety of posts in the security establishment for nearly four decades.

Netanyahu singled out Nagel’s work on the MoU, saying this was “a very important achievement.” He noted Nagel's “seriousness, dedication, professionalism, pleasant manner, genuine concern for Israel's security and the great help you have been to me and – of course – the ministers of the cabinet.”

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