Likud minister mocked for saying ‘it’s my job’ to name friends to government posts

David Amsalem says he prefers to put forward people he knows well; Labor’s Michaeli calls his attitude ‘corruption at its best’

Minister David Amsalem speaks during a plenum session at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on July 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister David Amsalem speaks during a plenum session at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on July 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem on Sunday defended his attempts to appoint personal acquaintances to senior positions in government companies, saying he prefers to tap candidates he knows well.

Speaking with the Kan public broadcaster, the Likud minister was asked about his clash with Government Companies Authority director Michal Rosenbaum, who reportedly has refused to comply with his suggestions for appointments at dozens of government companies.

Last week Amsalem requested that Rosenbaum be fired.

Asked why he tries to appoint people who are close to him, Amsalem told Kan, “That is my job, due to my authority to appoint directors. I put forward people that I know and hold in esteem” — admitting that also includes those who are within his social circles.

In response, leader of the opposition Labor party Merav Michaeli tweeted: “This is how government corruption is done. Looting of the public purse and corruption at its best.”

Idan Roll of the opposition Yesh Atid party wrote: “In his case, indeed, his role is to appoint friends.” Roll added that Amsalem simply views the Companies Authority as “a pool of jobs that he currently can’t exploit,” while Rosenbaum is at the helm.

Labor party leader MK Merav Michaeli leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, on July 17, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

National Unity party MK Sharren Haskel tweeted that the government “is busy all day long with how to promote their cronies,” and that “ministers do not understand at all what a proper administration is and what it is for.”

Last week, Amsalem requested Rosenbaum’s immediate termination claiming that she was unsuitable for the position. In response, Rosenbaum charged that Amsalem was working to make illegitimate and politicized appointments at dozens of government companies.

Amsalem made the request to Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz, accusing Rosenbaum of “aggressive and disrespectful” behavior, and claiming that she disobeyed his orders and bullied employees.

Rosenbaum denied the allegations, and said Amsalem was trying to have her dismissed for her refusal to carry out his “illegitimate demands, especially in the realm of appointments and wages.”

“In the less than four months since the minister took office, this is the third attempt he has made to remove the director of the Government Companies Authority,” she said.

“In a detailed opinion, the attorney general has clarified that the authority operates legally, and independently adheres to the rules of proper management,” the statement read. “She will not be discouraged by an attempt to threaten her, and she is determined to continue to exercise her judgment independently and without fear.”

(L) MK David Amsalem in Tel Aviv, December 8, 2022 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90) and (R) Michal Rosenbaum (Finance Ministry)

The Ynet news outlet said at the time that amid the disagreement, most of the necessary appointments to government companies have been frozen. There are reportedly around 300 open positions on 70 boards of directors, with some of them unable to convene and make decisions due to the lack of a quorum.

The situation has reached a point where large companies including the Israel Electric Corporation, state-housing company Amidar, and the Netivei Israel – National Transport Infrastructure Company, will not have functioning boards of directors by the end of the year, and will be unable to legally operate.

Amsalem is a Likud lawmaker and key ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He serves as a minister in the Justice Ministry in addition to his role as minister in charge of liaising between the government and the Knesset.

The Government Companies Authority was traditionally part of the Finance Ministry, but Amsalem insisted it be moved under his control as part of the agreement he made with Netanyahu to join the cabinet.

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