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PM announces first series of appointments of aides

In one of first official acts, Bennett extends tenure of Shin Bet chief Argaman

Security agency head, who took office in May 2016, will now stay on through at least October as the hunt for a successor joins new PM’s to-do list; Bennett also meets Mossad chief

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 15, 2021. (Haim Tzach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 15, 2021. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

In one of his first official acts in office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday extended the tenure of Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman for an additional month.

Argaman, who entered the job in May 2016, will now stay on until at least October as the head of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency.

Bennett and Argaman met for their first official work meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office since Bennett became prime minister on Sunday. Bennett also met Tuesday with Mossad chief David Barnea for the first time since becoming premier.

According to the PMO, Argaman presented Bennett with an overview of the Shin Bet’s activities and the status of the areas in which it operates. Bennett received a similar intelligence briefing from Barnea on the Mossad’s operations.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Mossad chief David Barnea meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 15, 2021. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

In April, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended Argaman’s tenure by four months, through September. The announcement came following a report in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that Netanyahu had planned to appoint his national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, as the new director of the agency, a move Defense Minister Benny Gantz refused to agree to.

Now that a new government has been installed, a new permanent successor to Argaman can be appointed, although it does not appear to be at the top of Bennett’s agenda.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat hold consultations on February 24, 2020. (Government Press Office)

Earlier this month, Argaman issued a rare warning about the incitement and violent discourse that was swirling across Israel ahead of Bennett’s ousting of Netanyahu as premier.

“We have recently identified a serious rise and radicalization in violent and inciting discourse, specifically on social media,” Argaman said, warning that such online speech could lead some groups or individuals to violence.

Angry protests and death threats against many lawmakers, particularly those in Bennett’s Yamina Party, prompted enhanced security protection for many MKs.

“This discourse may be interpreted among certain groups or individuals as one that allows violent and illegal activity and could even lead to harm to individuals,” Argaman said in early June.

“It is our duty to come out with a clear and decisive call for an immediate cessation of the inciting and violent speech,” Argaman added. “The responsibility for restraining the discourse rests on the shoulders of us all.”

Later Tuesday, Bennett’s office announced his first series of appointments in the Prime Minister’s Office, tapping his longtime aide Tal Gan Zvi as his chief of staff.

Arab affairs analyst Shimrit Meir (Channel 12 screenshot)

Bennett named Matan Sidi, another aide, as his official spokesperson, and appointed Arab affairs analyst and Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Shimrit Meir as his adviser for international affairs.

A statement from the PMO noted Bennett’s request for National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Military Secretary Avi Blut, both of whom were appointed by Netanyahu, to remain in their posts for now. It also said other appointments such as the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office and the cabinet secretary will be made later.

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