Netanyahu wanted to appoint journalist to expel African migrants

Netanyahu wanted to appoint journalist to expel African migrants

Prime Minister's Office was prepared to pay Israel Hayom's Boaz Bismuth large bonuses to find host countries

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to appoint, without a tender, an Israeli journalist who works for the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom newspaper as a special consultant to manage the government’s expulsion of African migrants, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

In addition, Netanyahu intended to give the potential adviser, Boaz Bismuth, a generous bonus package well above the compensation offered to public servants in comparable positions. The report did not indicate when the deal was under discussion.

According to a document obtained by Globes, the Prime Minister’s Office attempted to keep the appointment, which did not end up going through, from the public.

The Foreign Ministry had offered candidates of its own, but it appears that Netanyahu’s office did not think they were up to the task of finding African countries to absorb the migrants.

“The use of conventional methods, including the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic channel, is ineffective because the infiltrator and refugee phenomenon is a global phenomenon, and countries around the world are not showing readiness to absorb the immigrants,” according to the document.

“The conclusion from this insight is that there is a need to appoint a special external project manager with rich diplomatic experience, familiarity with Africa, and the ability to make contact with senior officials in the continent’s countries, someone who will operate with determination with a low profile and effectiveness, under the auspices of the inter-office team behind the scenes to identify third-party countries who will be willing to absorb refugees currently in Israel,” the document said.

The inter-office committee was created in 2010 under the direction of the PMO’s then-director general , Eyal Gabbai, to find solutions for the migrant problem.

Boaz Bismuth (screen capture: YouTube)
Boaz Bismuth (screen capture: YouTube)

Netanyahu settled on Bismuth, who has served as Israel’s ambassador to Mauritania and possesses an advanced degree in African studies and international relations, as his choice for “special external project manager for the removal of infiltrators,” complete with a monthly salary of NIS 30,000 ($8,559), travel and lodging abroad, and bonuses as high as NIS 200,000 ($57,000).

If Bismuth managed to find an African country to take 500 refugees, he would receive a bonus of NIS 100,000 ($28,500). If he found a country to take 2,500 refugees, he would earn a NIS 200,000 bonus. Bismuth was also slated to receive smaller bonuses for each additional country he signed agreements with.

Bismuth was to resign from Israel Hayom — a free, not-for-profit daily tabloid published by Netanyahu’s billionaire US backer Sheldon Adelson — for the position.

“In preliminary conversations, Bismuth expressed readiness to carry out the mission, including leaving his current work immediately. There is total trust between Bismuth and the prime minister,” the report said.

The Prime Minister’s Office was insistent that Bismuth’s efforts be kept from the public eye. “In light of the sensitivity of the matter and the involvement with sensitive international issues, we ask that the details of this correspondence be kept secret and not be publicized.”

Israel is home to some 60,000 migrants from Africa, most of them Eritrean and Sudanese. The vast majority of them live in south Tel Aviv, specifically in a several-block radius around Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station and Levinsky Park.

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