Miri Regev's controversial choice of director-general postponed for a week

Benzaken was deemed "unqualified" by the Public Service Senior Appointments Advisory Committee last week.

 Transportation Minister Miri Regev seen with Benjamin Netanyahu during a cabinet meetingat the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on January 3, 2023 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Transportation Minister Miri Regev seen with Benjamin Netanyahu during a cabinet meetingat the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on January 3, 2023
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The government delayed on Sunday Transportation Minister MK Miri Regev's choice of director general, Moshe Benzaken, after Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara deemed the appointment "not legally viable."

The 36-year-old Benzaken was deemed "unqualified" on Wednesday by the Public Service Senior Appointments Advisory Committee. The committee added that the appointment could harm the ministry's ability to meet its many and complex tasks. The committee did not change its opinion after reevaluating the appointment after an appeal by Regev.

The A-G conveyed to the government that the committee's initial evaluation held "especially large weight" and was "nearly binding." The fact that the committee did not find an "essential reason" to change its position after reevaluating, meant that there was "no legal basis" to allow the appointment contrary to the committee's opinion.  

Regev reportedly said during the cabinet meeting on Sunday morning that "appointments committees have become political appointment committees," and accused it of giving preferential treatment to former prime minister Yair Lapid. Netanyahu reportedly added that "political appointments are worthy and even necessary."

Who is Miri Regev confidante Moshe Benzaken?

Benzaken served in the past as chief of staff for Regev, and is currently CEO of a fund that encourages and develops the construction branch in Israel, and is also Deputy CEO of the Israel Builders Association.

 Miri Regev and Yariv Levin attend a plenum session on forming the government, in the Knesset, on December 29, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Miri Regev and Yariv Levin attend a plenum session on forming the government, in the Knesset, on December 29, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Regev circulated a statement last week saying that the committee did find Benzaken worthy of a "mid-level" ministry, and that there had been "an understanding" with the appointments committee that Benzaken could be appointed to the large, "high-level" Transportation Ministry for a half-year probation period. This "understanding" was reached in the presence of the representatives of the Attorney General's Office, Regev argued.

Ben Zaken "met every requirement" and he was "professional, experienced and worthy," Regev added in last week's statement. She reportedly repeated these claims during Sunday's cabinet meeting.

The A-G's opinion is not legally binding, but if the government votes to appoint Benzaken there will likely be an appeal to the High Court – leading to another front between the government and High Court, after the case against Shas chairman Arye Deri's ability to serve as minister was heard on Thursday.

The cabinet approved a number of other appointments, including lawyer Yossi Fuchs as Cabinet Secretary, Yossi Shelley as Director General of the Prime Minister's Office, former MK and minister Tzachi Hanegby as head of the National Security Council, Ronen Peretz as the Interior Ministry's Director General, Itamar Donnenfeld as Justice Ministry D-G, and Moshe Bar Simantov as Health Ministry D-G, a position he fulfilled in the past, including when the COVID-19 virus first hit in March 2020.