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Report: Netanyahu ordered papers shredded before leaving office

Former PM denies claim he had staffers destroy documents from safes at Prime Minister’s Office prior to handing over to Bennett

Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)
Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

A report Thursday claimed that just before former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu left the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday, his staff shredded documents that were being stored in safes.

A spokesperson for Netanyahu called the report “total lies. No such thing ever happened.”

If true, the allegations detailed by the Haaretz daily would represent an ignominious and likely illegal final act by the Likud leader, as his efforts to hold on to power reached their conclusion, after 12 years in office.

The paper quoted unnamed staffers who worked in Netanyahu’s bureau who said that they had been told to shred documents on Sunday morning, hours before a coalition of parties working to oust Netanyahu from office took power. They said that the order had come from Netanyahu himself.

The Prime Minister’s Office, now headed by Naftali Bennett, said it was unaware of the allegations, but would examine the claims.

According to Haaretz, the safes were located in a part of the Prime Minister’s Office known as the Aquarium, an inner sanctum where the premier and top officials were situated.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Yossi Cohen look over documents in a photo posted on social media by Netanyahu on December 7, 2015, shortly after he named Cohen as the new Mossad chief. (PMO/Facebook/File)

While it is not known what was in the documents that were allegedly shredded, the safes normally held papers relating to senior officials’ work schedules, routine government activity, and more, Haaretz reported.

By law, any documents relating to government work are state property and are to be preserved and archived. According to the report, at least some documents were handed over to Bennett’s staff to be filed away or used as needed.

Members of the new government and activists have sought the release of transcripts and other documents previously held under wraps, in a bid to lift the veil off decisions made by Netanyahu and others during his 12 years in power.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged Bennett to change government regulations in order to allow the publication of minutes from the currently classified coronavirus cabinet meetings over the past year.

Defeated prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks away after briefly shaking hands with new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, after the Knesset voted confidence in Bennett’s coalition by 60-59 votes, June 13, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP)

Gantz, who was part of that cabinet, said the disclosure of the protocols will help the public better understand decisions taken by the ministerial body that led the government’s efforts to curb the pandemic, while also holding members of the coronavirus cabinet accountable.

In addition to Gantz, the Movement for Freedom of Information is expected to reach out to Bennett in the coming days to make the same request to release the meeting transcripts.

On Monday, Netanyahu handed the office and its formal powers over to Bennett in an unusually terse and short meeting, which ended without a traditional ceremony, handshake, or photo-op, an indication of the animus Netanyahu harbors toward Bennett, his own one-time chief of staff.

Tal Schneider contributed to this report.

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