Departure of PM’s spokesman ‘signifies nothing’

PMO says resignation of Nir Hefetz is part of normal turnover, not sign that Netanyahu’s inner circle is “jumping a sinking ship.”

netanyahu cabinet meeting 311 (photo credit: Haim Tzach)
netanyahu cabinet meeting 311
(photo credit: Haim Tzach)
The Monday resignation of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s chief spokesman, Nir Hefetz, is part of the normal turnover in any prime minister’s bureau, and is not a sign that Netanyahu’s inner circle is “jumping a sinking ship,” top officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday.
Following front page articles in the Hebrew press Tuesday saying that Hefetz’s departure was a sign that Netanyahu’s bureau was “crumbling,” Hefetz, senior adviser Ron Dermer, cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser, and Hefetz’s deputy and likely successor Gidi Schmerling all gave interviews to counter the impression of a crisis in the prime minister’s inner circle.
PM spokesman Nir Hefetz announces resignation
Gidi Shmerling to join PM’s Office as spokesman
Hefetz’s announcement came just days after Netanyahu’s top political adviser, Shalom Shlomo, and his speech writer, Tzahi Gabrieli, announced they were leaving as well. The proximity of the departures fed the impression that there was a serious problem inside the office.
But Dermer told The Jerusalem Post it was all a natural process of people leaving very intensive jobs that demanded killer hours.
“I’m sure that the decisions have to do with wanting to spend more time with their families,” he said.
According to Dermer, this type of turnover takes place in the offices of leaders all over the world, including in Washington, where earlier in the year President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, his senior adviser David Axelrod and national security adviser James Jones all resigned. But there, he said, it was not interpreted as a sign that Obama’s office was falling apart.
Schmerling, in an Israel Radio interview, said that during Yitzhak Rabin’s term as prime minister, seven people had left the Prime Minister’s Office. He added that that five had left under Ehud Barak, eight under Ariel Sharon and five during Ehud Olmert’s tenure. Five people, he said, had left during Netanyahu’s term.
“We are in the middle,” he said, adding that when this had happened under previous prime ministers, it was seen as something natural, “not as major drama.”
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that the timing of the latest resignations was coincidental, with Shlomo and Gabrieli having talked about leaving for months. Hefetz’s announcement also did not come completely out of the blue, as there had been rumors for some time that he was looking for jobs elsewhere.
Amid these assurances that the changes did not signify anything, the Prime Minister’s Office announced yet another change Tuesday night, with Netanyahu’s aide Gil Shefer appointed Prime Minister’s Office director.
In an apparent effort to fend off speculations that this would lead to a demotion of Netanyahu’s bureau chief Natan Eshel, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that Eshel would remain in his position.
Shefer and Schmerling worked together for a number of years at the Jerusalem Municipality.