After initial rejection, Regev gets OK for ex-Likud operative to be ministry chief

Transportation minister faced legal pushback to candidacy of Moshe Ben Zaken as ministry’s director-general, appointing him acting deputy instead for past 6 months

Miri Regev and Moshe Ben Zaken, right, at the Likud party headquarters on March 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Miri Regev and Moshe Ben Zaken, right, at the Likud party headquarters on March 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Over six months after taking office as transportation minister, Likud lawmaker Miri Regev finally received approval to appoint a close confidant as her ministry’s director-general, after initially facing pushback from legal advisers.

The pushback prevented Regev from appointing Moshe Ben Zaken, her former aide and a political operative, as her ministry’s director-general in January, after the Civil Service Commission’s Senior Appointments Advisory Committee took the position that Ben Zaken was unqualified and unfit for the role. The committee cited his past as a political operative for Regev’s Likud party.

While the committee’s recommendations are not binding, the government rarely goes against them and Regev did not want to take up the issue with the High Court, leading to “Moshe’s good name being tarnished,” she said at the time.

“I will not give the High Court the pleasure of criticizing me and the government from its ivory tower,” Regev said in January.

Yael Cohen, legal adviser to the Transportation Ministry, issued an opinion at the time, arguing that there was a legal impediment to the appointment of Ben Zaken. Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara had also opposed the candidacy and said he was “not qualified to fill the position, and his appointment may harm the functioning of the ministry and its ability to meet its many and complex tasks.”

Regev had vowed to continue campaigning within the cabinet to obviate the need for Senior Appointments Advisory Committee approval, and insisted it should be a minister’s right to choose whom to appoint to positions of trust.

Ben Zaken has instead been serving as the Transportation Ministry’s acting deputy director-general for six months. Deputy director-general positions do not require committee approval.

After his six months on the job, the committee gave its okay on Sunday for Ben Zaken to officially take the top slot at the ministry.

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