ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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Sara Netanyahu ‘active and involved’ in appointments, Liberman testifies in court

The former minister and erstwhile top aide to the premier says Netanyahu’s wife routinely intervened in senior appointments

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, December 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, December 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu leader and former finance and defense minister MK Avigdor Liberman testified in court on Sunday that Sara Netanyahu was routinely involved in political and even professional appointments during her husband Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous stints as premier.

Liberman was testifying in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court during a libel case filed by Netanyahu’s former attorney and second cousin David Shimron against former defense industry official and ex-Export Institute chairman David Artzi.

Artzi alleged that Shimron drafted a 15-page “secret agreement” in the 1990s between Netanyahu and his wife, granting her sweeping control over core aspects of national affairs, including veto power over senior appointments and the right to be included in security deliberations.

Shimron and Netanyahu have denied the allegations, and Shimron filed a libel suit against Artzi for NIS 425,000 ($121,000) in March 2021.

“In general, did Sara Netanyahu act and intervene in appointments? Yes, indeed,” Liberman told the court on Sunday.

“We got direct telephone calls to move some secretary in the Likud primaries that she [Sara] did not like… Was there active intervention by Sara Netanyahu in appointments? Yes, certainly,” Channel 12 cited Liberman as testifying in court.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman converse in the Knesset plenum, October 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Liberman served as the director-general of the Likud party from 1993 to 1996 and director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office from 1996 to 1997 under Netanyahu’s leadership.

As Yisrael Beytenu leader, Liberman also served under Netanyahu in several ministerial positions since 2009, most recently as defense minister from 2016 to 2018.

The allegations of a secret agreement between Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu are connected to Benjamin Netanyahu’s affair with his media adviser in the 1990s, which he acknowledged publicly in 1993 in what became known as the “hot tape” affair.

According to the allegations, an agreement was drawn up between the couple after this incident that gave Sara significant authority over her husband’s decisions in numerous aspects of national life.

During Sunday’s court hearing, Liberman was asked if there had been a change in Netanyahu’s behavior toward his wife following his public acknowledgment of the affair.

“No. There were rumors about an agreement between them, not something that I know of,” said Liberman, adding that Sara had been involved in decisions regarding senior appointments before and after the affair.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara address their supporters on the night of the Israeli elections, at Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Yisrael Beytenu leader told the court of one case involving the planned appointment of a new Israeli ambassador to the UN in 2009 — initially supposed to be diplomat Alon Pinkas.

“Before the appointment of a UN ambassador I spoke with Netanyahu about Alon Pinkas. He said okay. The day before the cabinet meeting I got a call from the cabinet secretary that Netanyahu was opposed [to the appointment] and requested to remove it from the agenda,” said Liberman

Former Netanyahu aide Nir Hefetz has said Pinkas’s appointment was directly torpedoed by Sara. Asked specifically by Artzi’s attorney whether that account was correct, Liberman said he did not “recall all the details, but it is correct in general.”

“I didn’t hear directly from her in this incident, but you cannot rule it out. Sara Netanyahu was active and intervened in appointments,” he said.

“Netanyahu was very attentive to Sara… When I would hear him shouting on the phone I knew Sara was standing next to him,” added the former minister.

“It’s clear that Netanyahu included her in everything. She was very active and it was clear from his behavior whether she was by his side or not.”

Last week, Maj. Gen. (res.) Guy Tzur, a retired high-ranking IDF official, testified in the Rishon Lezion court regarding an interview he had in 2012 for the position of military secretary to the prime minister.

“The prime minister arrived, sat down and asked me one question. [Then Sara] sat down and spoke with me for five minutes. Later, the prime minister returned, apologized, and said that we had spoken enough, and he dismissed me from the meeting,” testified Tzur.

“I felt like I had been interviewed by her, and because of that I wouldn’t get the job.”

Two days later, Tzur received the news that he would not be appointed military secretary.

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