Ben Gvir’s ministry chief quits, cites personal reasons; reports indicate pair clashed

Media outlets point to dispute as true reason for departure, as minister faces criticism over unfulfilled promises of greater security; the outgoing official denies strife

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Shlomo Ben Eliyahu leads the first committee meeting on creating a new National Guard, held at the Ministry of National Security in Jerusalem, on June 7, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Shlomo Ben Eliyahu leads the first committee meeting on creating a new National Guard, held at the Ministry of National Security in Jerusalem, on June 7, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The National Security Ministry’s director-general announced his resignation Wednesday, citing “personal reasons.”

In a statement, Shlomo Ben Eliyahu listed achievements accomplished during his time in the ministry that oversees the police, including a boost to the ministry’s budget, a salary bump for security forces and work on establishing a National Guard force.

“Due to personal reasons, I recently informed the national security minister of my intention to end my term as the ministry’s director-general,” Ben Eliyahu wrote, thanking Itamar Ben Gvir for the opportunity.

However, media reports indicated there were other motives for Ben Eliyahu’s departure relating to clashes with the minister or unhappiness with his conduct.

The outgoing director general denied those claims in an interview with Channel 13 news, and added that he had cited “personal reasons” for his resignation as a hint not press him on his private affairs.

The interviewer told Ben Eliyahu it was “no secret” that he had had disagreements with Ben Gvir and his staff, to which the outgoing official replied: “It is a secret, because it is incorrect.”

The Ynet news site reported, without citing sources, that Ben Eliyahu had become fed up with the far-right minister, viewing him as being chiefly concerned with making headlines and employing “aggressive” tactics at the expense of officials in the police and the prison service.

File: National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir hugs a motorbike driver in south Tel Aviv on September 3, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Haaretz daily reported that Ben Eliyahu left his role due to a dispute with Ben Gvir and his chief of staff Chanamel Dorfman, citing unnamed sources.

“If a director-general like Ben Eliyahu, with all his years of experience in administration, leaves while slamming the door behind him, it shows how much the minister interfered in his work,” one of the sources said.

Channel 12 also reported that conflict with the minister was behind the decision.

Ben Gvir thanked Ben Eliyahu for “his contribution to the security of the country.” His office announced that the current deputy director-general, Eliezer Rosenbaum, will begin serving as the departing official’s replacement on October 11.

Ben Eliyahu previously headed up the Housing Ministry as well as leading the Israel Land Authority and the Jewish Agency’s settlement department. Ben Gvir appointed Ben Eliyahu to the role upon taking office.

While campaigning for the November 2022 election, Ben Gvir advocated for hardline policies against the Palestinians and Israeli crime, promising to boost security and governance for Israelis. He has been criticized for not fulfilling his promises, as a spike in terrorism and a record number of homicides in the Arab community have occurred under his watch.

Ben Eliyahu is not the first director-general of a government office to depart under the current government. Last month, Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan dismissed her director-general Gali Sambira over “dissatisfaction with her professional work.”

The Education Ministry’s Asaf Tzlal resigned in July citing current societal divisions, though he did not explicitly mention the coalition’s controversial judicial overhaul legislation.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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