State attorney says Netanyahu must allow fired drivers back behind the wheel

Three drivers in Prime Minister’s Office were removed from their jobs after PM resumed role, seemingly because they are witnesses in his corruption trial

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

File: Benjamin Netanyahu sits in his car after the inauguration ceremony of a new neighborhood in Beit El, in the West Bank, July 12, 2022. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
File: Benjamin Netanyahu sits in his car after the inauguration ceremony of a new neighborhood in Beit El, in the West Bank, July 12, 2022. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

The State Attorney’s Office issued a court filing on Tuesday stating that three drivers should be restored to their original positions after they were fired earlier this year, ostensibly because they are prosecution witnesses in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial.

The veteran drivers were reinstated to the Prime Minister’s Office earlier this month, but not to their original positions, and were not supposed to be involved in driving the prime minister, though they had driven pervious premiers.

The State Attorney’s Office’s Tuesday demand followed a filing by the drivers to the Labor Court making the same request last week.

“All orders that were issued to change the position, service, and status of the drivers in the [Prime Minister’s] Office in violation of the restrictions established in the conflict of interests arrangement of the chief of staff must be annulled,” the State Attorney’s Office said in a filing to the Labor Court on Tuesday.

Following the decision to fire the drivers, Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon ordered their jobs be restored, telling PMO Director General Yossi Shelley that the decision to dismiss the drivers violated a conflict of interest agreement signed by the premier’s chief of staff, Tzachi Braverman, which barred him from making decisions regarding witnesses in Netanyahu’s trial.

According to a Channel 12 report, the drivers subsequently received a message from the PMO telling them they were permitted to return to “sit in the drivers’ room” and that “at most,” they will be used for day-to-day activities by the office, despite having decades of experience.

Netanyahu is on trial over three cases of corruption, including Case 1000, in which he is accused of providing quid pro quo benefits to two billionaires in return for receiving luxury gifts, including cigars, from them.

The three drivers in question gave evidence to the police contradicting Netanyahu’s claim that he purchased many of the cigars from his own pocket, and they are expected to give evidence in the trial next month.

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