PM names new PMO communications director

Lior Dan becomes PR chief following Hendel's resignation; Netanyahu wishes staff told him about Eshel before the press.

PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
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 diplomacy.
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 after that conversation.
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 severance package.
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 room.
Locker is expected to be named to another IDF post in the near future, but this move is unrelated to the Eshel affair.
On Wednesday, 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 press.
“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.