The job of director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office is one of the most powerful in the country. Running the most important office in the government, the holder of the post can be involved in virtually any issue and take concrete steps to move it forward. Arguably, it is a more powerful role than Knesset member and deputy minister, making Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eli Groner Israel’s most powerful Anglo today.
While not a political aide, Groner is very much affiliated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Groner, who moved with his family to Israel from Binghamton, New York, to Israel at the age of 15 in 1985, was appointed by Netanyahu to his post in May, 2015 – coming a long way from his first job 20 years ago as an economics and financial markets reporter for The Jerusalem Post.
“Moving to Israel in the middle of high school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Groner said. “We didn’t have Nefesh B’Nefesh. I came from the smallest Jewish community in the United States with a day school, so my Hebrew was not good, and the highly regarded schools in Jerusalem didn’t want to accept me.”
A week before the school year began, he recalled, he was accepted to the Or Etzion yeshiva high school, which caused great trepidation for his mother.
“She was of the mind-set that we moved to Israel so I wouldn’t have to be sent to a dormitory for a Jewish education, and then, I needed to get sent to a dormitory to get a Jewish education,” he said.
After Or Etzion, Groner was in the inaugural class of the Bnei David IDF preparatory academy in the Samarian community of Eli.
“The single most important takeaway I have from that year is that, in the sovereign Jewish nation-state in the ancient Land of Israel, anything we do to strengthen the modern State of Israel is holy work,” he said.
Groner is of the belief that immigrants to Israel should pursue careers they are passionate about.
“Our country can use help on so many fronts,” he said. “If you are passionate about law – believe me that our legal system needs help. Same for academia, military, the police force, the ‘classic’ business sector, and yes, the public sector. But people should go where they have passion and the ability to have real impact.”
Groner met with Netanyahu many times leading up to his appointment and has been the driving force behind implementing Netanyahu’s economic and social policies. These include the natural gas framework, the deregulation blitz, the “numerator,” which Groner told us was “Israel’s fiscal Iron Dome,” the National Infrastructures Plan, legislation geared toward enforcement of sanctions on illegal building, a major push on connecting to international markets, with an emphasis on China, India and Africa, and opening up government databases to the public.
“My role is to serve as the prime minister’s inter-government agency coordinator, and to ensure that his vision gets designed and implemented in the best way possible,” Groner said.
“Because of the nature of this article, I’m willing to raise the curtain on one major disagreement between the prime minister and me, which I’m willing to make public. Two and a half years ago, while watching a soccer game together, we got into a debate over what is the better sport, soccer or baseball. I don’t think that one is ever getting resolved between us!”