Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon claimed in an interview that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu required candidates for the senior position of military secretary to face an interview with his wife, Sara, who had a final say over the appointment.
“I don’t like dealing with Balfour House [the Prime Minister’s residence],” Ya’alon said in an interview with Hadashot news to be broadcast in full on Friday night. “But at a certain point I discovered that there was actually involvement with decisions about appointments to IDF positions.”
Ya’alon said that Sara Netanyahu had veto power over who would serve as the prime minister’s military secretary, a position that acts as a go-between the Israel Defense Forces and the premier. The job is often seen as a stepping stone for higher positions within the military.
“When we needed to decide on a military secretary we sent [the candidates] for an interview with the prime minister,” Ya’alon said. “Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot came to me very alarmed. He said, ‘This wasn’t an interview with the prime minister. It was an interview with his wife.’ That’s one of the things that startled me.”
In response the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying, “This never happened. The only interviews that took place were with the prime minister,” Hadashot reported.
Netanyahu on Sunday threatened to announce early elections at the beginning of September, likely to be held early in 2019, if the coalition crisis over the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students in the army was not resolved.
Earlier this year, during a previous coalition crisis when the prime minister also threatened early elections, Ya’alon announced he would run for the Knesset as the leader of a new political party, confirming widespread speculation of a political comeback from the onetime Likud apparatchik.
Ya’alon was ousted as defense minister in May 2016 by Netanyahu, and shortly afterward quit the ruling Likud party and the Israeli parliament. He has since frequently criticized Netanyahu and indicated he would return to run against him, but Saturday marked the first confirmation he would form a new party.
Sara Netanyahu has previously been accused of asserting an inappropriate level of influence over certain aspects of the Prime Minsiter’s Office, and of poor and at times abusive behavior towards employees.
In June, it was reported that she was “forcibly” removed from a meeting with outgoing Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Eli Groner after she berated and tried to attack him in a violent altercation over expenses.
Groner, who has announced that he is stepping down from the position, denied that the incident occurred.