Ultra-Orthodox parties raised questions Tuesday about why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly dropped his support for their favored state comptroller candidate hours after saying he would back her, with some suggesting the premier’s son pulled strings to have her dropped.
Some political sources told Hebrew media that Yair Netanyahu convinced his father to reject attorney Michal Rosenboim as a candidate because she has been linked to anti-Netanyahu activist Eldad Yaniv, while others speculated it was due to the attorney having been linked to the premier’s main political rival in Likud, Gideon Sa’ar.
United Torah Judaism officials said they were surprised by the change in the prime minister’s position, media reports said, with some pointing to a Twitter exchange between Yair Netanyahu and Yaniv about Rosenboim as the cause.
Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster on Tuesday, Yaniv alleged that “Yair is running the country.”
The Likud party responded in a statement saying “Eldad Yaniv is again spouting drivel. The prime minister’s decision was not based on any tweet.”
נחשפים השמות. מועמדי הליכוד ומועמד כחול לבן.
Rosenboim also denied the claims.
“I am aware of the rumors about the purported intervention by Yair Netanyahu,” she said in a statement. “I don’t know him, I have never met him, and I want to tell you with certainty that it never happened, [people are] pointing at him for no reason.”
The prospective coalition parties on Monday narrowed their choices for the comptroller position down to two candidates, Rosenboim and Matanyahu Englman, the legal adviser to the Union of Municipal Corporations.
Rosenboim’s candidacy was promoted by the Knesset’s ultra-Orthodox parties and she is considered close to United Torah Judaism’s leader — Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman — as well as figures in the Shas party. She was also once a partner in a law firm together with another attorney who is a close acquaintance of Sa’ar.
However, with less than two hours to go before a midnight deadline for nominations, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that the coalition would back only Englman to replace outgoing State Comptroller Yosef Shapira.
The abrupt change in plan came hours after the Twitter clash between Yair Netanyahu and Yaniv.
Yair Netanyahu has developed a reputation as a fierce and often undiplomatic defender of his father and government policies on social media, often engaging in online spats with journalists and others.
After Yaniv tweeted that he is a friend of Rosenboim, Yair Netanyahu responded that attorneys with ties to Yaniv and Sa’ar would not be welcome by Likud supporters as state comptrollers.
“Believe me, the last thing that will be good for Gideon Sa’ar is if Likud voters think that you [and Rosenboim] are friends,” Netanyahu wrote.
The Prime Minister’s Office rejected the notion that there were any personal considerations and said the decision to focus on Englman alone was made in order to face off against the single candidate backed by the Blue and White party, which is expected to lead the opposition in the next parliament and gave its support to Giora Romm, a former military attaché in the United States and former deputy commander of the Israeli Air Force.
“There is no connection to the prime minister’s son,” the PMO said in a statement. “The decision to focus on one candidate for the coalition was taken in light of the fact that the opposition put forward a single candidate.”
The next comptroller will be chosen by secret ballot in the Knesset in early June, before which a new government coalition is expected to be formed following April elections. Netanyahu has so far been frustrated by the conflicting demands made from his prospective coalition partners, which include the ultra-Orthodox parties without which he can’t form a majority in the Knesset.