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Bennett adviser resigns, third aide to quit in two weeks

Naomi Sasson joins former confidants Shimrit Meir and Tal Gan-Tzvi in bolting the prime minister’s team as coalition teeters

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett strolls with aide Naomi Sasson (right), whose resignation was announced on May 30, 2022. (Courtesy)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett strolls with aide Naomi Sasson (right), whose resignation was announced on May 30, 2022. (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett saw another aide resign from his office on Monday night, the third official to quit in recent weeks, after his chief of staff and diplomatic adviser, as the future of his government appears increasingly shaky.

Office chief and personal assistant Naomi Sasson worked for Bennett from 2016 until her resignation. Bennett hailed her on Twitter on Monday night as a tireless adviser.

“She has been of great help to me, and now — like a proud father — I am excited for her because the time has come for her to spread her wings toward new challenges,” he wrote.

Bennett’s office has seen close aides trickling away in recent weeks. In mid-May, diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir quit after a year in the job. In a letter, Meir said she would officially leave on June 1.

Meir was considered to be one of Bennett’s closest aides. But she repeatedly clashed with other Bennett advisers, as well as lawmakers on both the left and right sides of the fragile coalition.

The government is an unwieldy amalgam of right-wing, centrist, and leftist parties, along with the Islamist Ra’am, and has struggled to strike a balance between its different factions since coming into power last year, especially in recent months.

In recent weeks, the coalition has grown increasingly unwieldy. Yamina MK Idit Silman bolted the coalition, declaring that she could no longer support it — leaving the government with only 60 out of 120 lawmakers in the Knesset.

Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi also left, transforming Bennett’s coalition into a minority government — only to return a few days later, after intensive negotiations. Then Blue and White MK Michael Biton threatened to hobble the razor-thin coalition’s legislative ability if his demands on agriculture and transportation reforms were not met.

Last week, Bennett’s chief of staff Tal Gan-Tzvi resigned, in a serious blow to the premier. Like Sasson, Gan-Tzvi was a longtime Bennett confidant; he headed the 2021 coalition negotiations that created the current government on behalf of Bennett.

A source within Bennett’s Yamina party said at the time that Gan-Zvi had dealt with mounting frustrations while running the PMO. In particular, he received pushback trying to move the prime minister rightward, and had long been responsible for keeping Yamina’s MK Nir Orbach in line.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with his foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Orbach was also frustrated with the ideological compromises inherent in being part of a big tent coalition and has been considered a potential defector. Without Gan-Zvi’s support, Orbach might reexamine his political options, the source said. Orbach was reported Sunday to have threatened he could soon quit the government.

Bennett appointed Eden Bizman as chief of staff, succeeding Tal Gan-Zvi, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Monday. The premier has yet to announce a replacement for Meir.

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