An Israeli TV report on Friday painted a picture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner leadership circle as a dysfunctional group of low-caliber yes-men, and alleged that Netanyahu’s wife Sara has veto power over all appointees to his key advisory team.
The Channel 2 report also noted that several key positions in the Prime Minister’s Office have remained unfilled for many months — including the critical post of national security adviser, the head of the National Information Directorate, and the liaison to the Knesset. The post of cabinet secretary, recently offered to an inexperienced candidate, has been unfilled for six months.
Unnamed aides to Netanyahu said in response that the TV report was a collection of “recycled and false allegations.” They said Sara Netanyahu plays no role in the decision-making process of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Interviewed for the TV report, Netanyahu’s former national security adviser Uzi Arad said that the role of Sara Netanyahu in the hierarchy of government had been “upgraded of late,” and that she exerts influence over her husband’s key appointments.
The report quoted unnamed former officials going further, to assert that without the approval of Sara Netanyahu, “there is no entry” for would-be appointees to the prime minister’s inner circle.
It claimed Netanyahu’s older son Yair also plays a role in senior appointments to the PMO, and specified that Ran Baratz, a controversial academic who Netanyahu originally intended to make his Information Directorate chief, was given the lower-level advisory role he took up last month “in part because Yair pushed for it.” (After Netanyahu named Baratz to the top media post in November, it emerged that he had written a series of incendiary Facebook posts castigating US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, and the prime minister last month instead installed him as a media adviser.)
The TV report claimed that Netanyahu is now surrounded by aides who applaud rather than argue with him, and said a higher-caliber team could have helped the prime minister avoid a series of setbacks and errors, including internal coalition disagreements and friction with the US over the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu, it claimed, feels that he won the 2015 elections virtually single-handed, and is not much minded to take critical advice from anyone.
The unnamed aides defending Netanyahu told Channel 2 that Arad was a “persistent troublemaker,” and gave the TV station a long list of current PMO officials, detailing the virtues of each of them.