Analysis: What happened to all Netanyahu’s men?

More and more of his friends have been hired to junior-level positions in the Prime Minister’s Office.

August 10, 2016 04:18
3 minute read.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting of cabinet ministers in Jerusalem, May 30, 2016. (photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)

It should come as no surprise that on a day when the press dealt with a bill designed to prevent prime ministers from being investigated, Channel 10 led the news with a headline that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair would soon be questioned.

It was as if the police were signaling to Netanyahu: If you think you can find a way to get yourself immunity, we will find another way to get at you. It is no wonder Netanyahu’s office, which does not respond to every private member’s bill, made a point of releasing a statement that the prime minister was not aware of the legislation that would prohibit the investigation of a sitting prime minister for minor crimes, and that it would not apply to the current investigations against him.

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Yair, who is 25, has become increasingly powerful in Netanyahu’s inner circle.

More and more of his friends have been hired to junior-level positions in the Prime Minister’s Office, and he was more involved in the Likud’s 2015 campaign than ever before.

When times are tough, Netanyahu knows he can rely only on his family – his diplomatic arm is his cousin, Isaac Molcho, while his political and legal arms are David Shimron, also a relative.

The role of Netanyahu’s wife Sara in his office also cannot be underestimated.

Multiple people who have worked for Netanyahu said getting along with her is a prerequisite for the job, and most of the remaining aides in his office have some kind of connection to her.

The report about Yair Netanyahu came after a day in which Netanyahu basically pushed his chief of staff, David Sharan, out the door.

Sharan is not a household name around the world or in Israel, but he should be. Until Tuesday, he would have been an obvious choice for The Jerusalem Post’s annual list of the 50 most powerful Jews.

He controlled Netanyahu’s schedule and supervised all of his advisers, working around the clock, seven days a week, spending more time with Netanyahu than anyone – Sara included.

Sharan hoped to shift to the post of cabinet secretary, which is as equally senior as chief of staff but involves much less dirty work and creates fewer enemies; three recent cabinet secretaries used the post as a launching pad to the Knesset.

Chiefs of staff to the prime minister have not made that jump in recent years.

Netanyahu agreed to give him the job months ago, but never followed through. When the prime minister told Sharan he had changed his mind, he packed up and quit immediately.

A confidant of Sharan who spoke to him on Tuesday said he wasn’t completely surprised, but was very disappointed that he did not receive what the confidant called “a prestigious post without the crap.”

Sharan will be replaced by the former head of Avis Israel, Yoav Horowitz, but he had filled at least two posts and will need at least two replacements.

There also are several other key posts in Netanyahu’s office that are still vacant, such as national security adviser and cabinet secretary.

It may be hard to run a country that way, but Netanyahu is known for saying he does not need advisers or aides, only secretaries. A recurring statement he has told his staff is: “I need someone to help me, not advise me.”

His former advisers say Netanyahu thinks he is the best adviser to himself, and they know that because he told them so repeatedly.

Netanyahu eventually will find more aides to full the vacancies because there are enough people who want to be near the driver’s seat. Whoever does enter that office must be careful, however, because an eventual interrogation by police is almost inevitable.

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