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Bennett’s chief of staff quits, in latest sign of discord in PM’s office

Tal Gan-Zvi, who has advised Bennett since 2013, is latest top aide to leave; rival Shimrit Meir is stepping down in coming days

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and chief of staff Tal Gan-Tzvi (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and chief of staff Tal Gan-Tzvi (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Tal Gan-Zvi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s chief of staff, will be stepping down in the coming weeks, Bennett’s office announced on Monday.

Gan-Zvi, who has advised Bennett since 2013, submitted his resignation, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Bennett called Gan-Zvi’s “wisdom, management skills, and fruits of his labor” a valuable asset, and referred to his aide as “one of my pillars.”

“I had the privilege over the past year to work with a true public servant for whom Israel’s well-being was and remains always at the front of his mind,” Gan-Zvi, 41, said in a statement thanking Bennett.

Gan-Zvi’s request comes less than two weeks after another top Bennett adviser announced she would be leaving.

Shimrit Meir, seen as a rival of Gan-Zvi’s within Bennett’s office, announced in a resignation letter that she would leave on June 1.

Yamina head Naftali Bennett at a party event on March 23, 2021. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)

Meir, senior adviser for foreign affairs, is also one of Bennett’s closest aides. However, she reportedly clashed repeatedly with Gan-Zvi and other political advisers who felt that she was trying to extend her influence into their spheres, including advising Bennett on his political strategy and responses to crises such as the coronavirus and the departure of MK Idit Silman from the coalition, the Ynet news site reported.

She was also seen as pulling Bennett toward the political center, to the ire of his right-wing Yamina party.

“She did not get along well with Tal Gan-Zvi,” a Yamina senior adviser told The Times of Israel after Meir announced her departure. “Shimrit tried to handle things that Tal handles, stuff outside of the realm of diplomatic areas.”

“Frankly, I don’t think she got along with any of the MKs or ministers in the party,” the source added, while noting that Meir had a strong relationship with her handpicked staff, including the prime minister’s foreign media adviser and Diaspora affairs adviser.

Shimrit Meir, then Editor-in-Chief of Al Masdar (The Source), an online Arabic-language newspaper, in Tel Aviv, March 02, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

Gan-Zvi’s resignation was seen as a further sign of instability in the government, which is struggling to survive after losing its majority.

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

Orbach has also been 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.

MK Nir Orbach attends an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Tal is a brother and dear friend,” tweeted Orbach. “We have been together for more than a decade already. Professional, dedicated, ethical, and a visionary. Tal my brother, I am certain that you will succeed with God’s help in everything you do. ‘Every end is a new beginning.'”

Gan-Zvi, a veteran of the Egoz commando unit, began his political career with Nir Barkat in 2008 when Barkat successfully ran for mayor of Jerusalem. Gan-Zvi joined Bennett’s staff in 2013, when he was economy minister, and was appointed Bennett’s chief of staff when he became education minister in 2015.

Gan-Zvi headed the 2021 coalition negotiations for Bennett that created the current government.

Bennett and Meir connected in 2014, during the war in Gaza, according to Jewish Insider.

Before joining him in the Prime Minister’s Office, she founded Link — the Center for Strategic Communication in the Middle East, in 2020, a nonprofit aimed at promoting Israel’s image in the Arab world.

According to Hebrew media reports, Meir encouraged Bennett to form the coalition he leads with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas, following the 2021 election.

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