Three drivers employed by the Prime Minister’s Office for roughly 30 years as part of the premier’s motorcade were summarily fired earlier this week, amid reports that Benjamin Netanyahu has been clearing house of staff who served in the previous government in order to ensure the loyalty of those working for him.
The three drivers worked for former prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and even Netanyahu himself. However, it was their most recent tenure under prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid that appeared to have stained their records in Netanyahu’s eyes, according to a Friday Channel 12 report.
The drivers told the network they were called in last Tuesday and informed that they would no longer be working for the Prime Minister’s Office.
They hired a lawyer who penned an open letter to the PMO’s human resources department head urging her to reverse the decision. “How, after decades of working in this position with nine different prime ministers, including Prime Minister Netanyahu and after compliments from every person they drove, including from Prime Minister Netanyahu, have my clients been deprived of their jobs in one fell swoop?” the letter reads.
Netanyahu’s office declined a request for comment on the Channel 12 report.
The development came a day after the network reported that Netanyahu is reportedly seeking to fire all public servants appointed to significant posts by the previous government in order to ensure that only his loyalists remain.
The premier’s aides are putting together a list of all those brought on by former prime ministers Bennett and Lapid over the past year and a half, Channel 12 reported on Thursday, without citing any sources.
Those in the crosshairs are not political appointees who traditionally resign in the handover process that took place last week, if not before. Instead, it is professional appointments made by the previous governments whose jobs are at risk, the report said.
Netanyahu is reportedly seeking to take advantage of a longstanding policy that allows government officials to fire public servants if they fail to perform adequately throughout a two-year trial period, after which such dismissals are more complicated. Since the previous government fell apart before that period expired, Netanyahu may not have an issue removing Bennett’s and Lapid’s appointees.
Responding to the report, Lapid called the policy a modern-day “witch hunt.”