Top government official quits, says minister seeks to use office to ‘accumulate power’

In resignation letter to PM, head of Government Companies Authority Michal Rosenbaum accuses David Amsalem of using role for personal gain, lashes Netanyahu for failing to back her

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

Government Companies Authority director Michal Rosenbaum resigned on Saturday evening following a months-long battle with Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem, citing his pending takeover of her department on Monday as the reason.

In her resignation letter, Rosenbaum told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she was leaving her position “due to the improper actions” of Amsalem, arguing that his behavior had prevented her from carrying out her duties.

She argued that Amsalem believes “the government companies are not a public resource but a ‘pool of jobs’ that he should use to accumulate power and political status.”

As a result, she continued, “Amsalem put enormous pressure on me and the Authority to support the appointment of political activists and [his] associates to key positions in government companies.”

The Government Companies Authority has traditionally been part of the Finance Ministry, but when joining the cabinet, Amsalem insisted that it operate under his control as part of his agreement with Netanyahu.

Though it has little to do with his other responsibilities, oversight of the authority offers Amsalem direct influence on appointments to hundreds of top governmental jobs.

The handover of the authority will be formally completed on Monday, after a handover period of several months.

Rosenbaum alleged that she was pressured to dismiss people from their roles as part of “political revenge” to open up positions for Amsalem’s associates.

In addition to making decisions she believed to be harmful to the government body, she asserted that Amsalem “uses his powers in other ways for his personal benefit and while harming the public interest.”

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

Writing that she had “acted as a gatekeeper, without fear, to protect the public interest and moral integrity,” Rosenbaum alleged that this had come with a heavy price.

“Minister Amsalem launched a harsh attack against me that included attempts to harm my powers and the Authority’s independence,” she wrote, adding that Amsalem had attempted to have her fired without grounds, froze tenders for key positions and flooded her office with unimportant tasks to prevent it from carrying out its work.

In addition, she charged that Amsalem had made misogynistic statements about her on multiple occasions.

“Minister Amsalem attacked me and lobbed wild personal insults at me, using rude and ugly language,” Rosenbaum wrote, alleging that Amsalem had accused her of being “reckless,” “violent,” and “deeply rotten.”

Amsalem has pushed for Rosenbaum’s termination for months, and in August of this year requested, unsuccessfully, that she be dismissed from her role.

He claimed that she was unsuitable for the position because she had disobeyed his orders and bullied employees, and accused her of being “aggressive and disrespectful.”

Turning her attention to Netanyahu, Rosenbaum alleged in her resignation letter to the prime minister that despite having asked him for backing multiple times while facing increasing pressure from Amsalem, he had refrained from intervening.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with then-coalition chairman MK David Amsalem during a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset on November 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“As prime minister, your duty was to order Minister Amsalem to stop his misconduct,” she wrote. “Despite this, you chose to ignore me, remain silent, and in effect allow the minister’s conduct.

“Worse than that, following my letters to you, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office offered to appoint me to another attractive ‘job,'” she wrote. “Of course, I could not agree to such an illegitimate offer and rejected it immediately.”

Reiterating her belief that the transfer of the Authority to Amsalem’s portfolio is a waste of public funding, Rosenbaum said that once it is complete, the transfer “will allow Amsalem to complete his plan, disintegrate the Authority, and empty it of all contents and power.”

Responding to Rosenbaum’s resignation, Interior Minister Moshe Arbel stated that he “regrets” her decision, praising her as a “dedicated public servant.”

“I am confident that Michal will continue to contribute her talent and abilities to the benefit of the citizens of Israel in the future,” Arbel added.

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid wrote that Rosenbaum’s exit was a “victory for corruption, for the culture of ‘jobs’ [to be handed out to cronies], for the appointments of associates and the crushing of the civil service.”

In August, Amsalem defended his attempts to appoint personal acquaintances to senior positions in government companies, saying it was right for him to tap candidates he knows well.

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