Regev to appoint director-general deemed 'unqualified' by vetting committee

The Transportation Minister intends to push the appointment through and expects "unanimous support" from the cabinet.

Miri  Regev (photo credit: REUTERS)
Miri Regev
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Transportation Minister MK Miri Regev intends to bring her appointment for director-general of the ministry, Moshe Ben Zaken, to the government for approval, she announced on Wednesday. This is despite the Public Service Senior Appointments Advisory Committee deeming him “unqualified” for the job.

According to Regev, the committee decided on Tuesday that the 36-year-old Ben Zaken was appropriate to serve in a “middle-sized” ministry, but not the Transportation Ministry, which is one of the largest and most complex.

Directors-general are the minister’s personal appointments, and therefore the committee’s purpose is to make sure the appointee has the necessary qualifications. The committee does not publish its recommendations.

Ben Zaken served in the past as chief of staff for Regev, and is currently CEO of a fund that encourages and develops the construction sector in Israel. He is also deputy CEO of the Israel Builders Association.

According to Regev, there “was an understanding” that Ben Zaken could be appointed to the position for a half-year probation period. This “understanding” was reached in the presence of the representatives of the Attorney-General’s Office, she said.

Miri Regev (credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)Miri Regev (credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)

Regev surprised by the outcome

She then was “surprised” on Wednesday morning that the committee had “reneged on the agreement” and decided to block his appointment.

Ben Zaken “met every requirement” and is “professional, experienced and worthy,” Regev wrote.

While she respected the committee’s opinion, it was merely a recommendation and she did not accept it – just like the previous government did not accept the committee’s decision to bar former minister Amir Peretz as the chairman of the Israel Aerospace Industries board, Regev wrote.

“Officials, however senior they may be, cannot make decisions instead of an elected minister regarding her most senior personal appointment,” she wrote, adding that she would bring the appointment to the government for approval on Sunday.

“This is an important test for all members of the government and I expect his appointment to be approved unanimously,” she added in a veiled threat to her fellow ministers.

Only twice before has the government brought such an appointment for approval contrary to the committee’s opinion, an official from the Civil Service Commission said on KAN Radio. In one of those cases, the appointee eventually decided to back out – and in the second, the High Court struck down the appointment, the official said.

IN OTHER news on Wednesday, United Torah Judaism chairman and Housing and Construction Minister MK Yizhak Goldknopf, Culture and Sports Minister Micky Zohar and Tourism Minister Haim Katz handed in their resignations to Knesset speaker MK Amir Ohana, becoming the third, fourth and fifth ministers to do so under the Norwegian Law.

The Norwegian Law enables ministers to resign from their positions as Knesset members in order to focus fully on their roles as ministers. This enables the next person on the party list to enter the Knesset.

This means that Yizhak Pindrus, who served as an MK in the previous Knesset, will once again become an MK. In the Likud, Dan Illouz and Ariel Kallner also became MKs.

The other ministers to resign already include Minister in the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry Yoav Ben-Tzur from Shas, and Jerusalem and Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu from Otzma Yehudit.

This brought into the Knesset Otzma Yehudit MK Yitzhak Kroizer, who was sworn in on Monday, and Shas MK Yonatan Mashriki, who was sworn in on Wednesday.

Additional ministers are expected to follow.

Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry Ya’acov Margi of Shas announced on Tuesday morning that he, too, would resign, but changed his mind later in the day.

Shas put out a statement saying that the official reason was because Margi was an “excellent parliamentarian” whose capabilities were needed in the Knesset.