Top Netanyahu Aide, Uzi Arad, to Quit National Security Adviser Post

Although FM Lieberman has rejected speculation that Arad will be named ambassador to London, Netanyahu says matter up for consideration.

After a wave of other staff departures in recent months from the Prime Minister's Bureau, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security adviser, Uzi Arad, announced on Sunday that he was resigning. He told the prime minister he was interested in returning to academia.

There had been several prior instances over the past two years in which indications surfaced that Arad might resign over internal office disputes in which he was the dominant player.

arad - Tess Scheflan - February 15 2011
Tess Scheflan

Last week Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman vetoed Netanyahu's choice of Arad as the new Israeli ambassador to London, and matters reached a peak last week, however, when someone in the prime minister' office leaked information to the Israel Hayom daily that Arad would be replacing the current Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor.

Prosor has been nominated as Israel's permanent ambassador to the United Nations, but Foreign Minister Lieberman was enraged by what appeared to be an attempt to force Arad's appointment as ambassador upon him.

Announcement of Arad's departure caused a storm in the Prime Minister's Bureau. Netanyahu held consultations on Sunday over the wording of the announcement of Arad's resignation. The prime minister canceled scheduled telephone conversations with British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to work on the announcement.

The statement released by Netanyahu's office said despite Arad's announced intention to return to academia, the prime minister would continue to attempt come to an agreement with Lieberman over Arad's appointment to a diplomatic post abroad, including an additional effort to convince Lieberman to agree to Arad's appointment as Israeli ambassador in London.

The prime minister is encountering difficulties finding a replacement for Arad as national security adviser. Last week he approached Maj. Gen. (res.) Meir Kalifi, who had been the prime minister's military secretary until a year ago, about the post, but Kalifi, who had had his fill of the Prime Minster's Bureau, politely declined.

On Sunday, Netanyahu contacted Kalifi again to ask him to take the national security position.

Netanyahu had also offered the job to Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, who was the head of the research division of the Israel Defense Force's intelligence branch. Amidror, a close associate of Netanyahu's, is currently a columinst for Israel Hayom, a newspaper identified with the prime minister.

If Amidror is chosen to replace Arad, it would significantly strengthen the right-of-center religious presence in the Prime Minister's Bureau.
Despite the praise for Arad expressed in the statement released Sunday by Netanyahu's office, it appears that Arad's departure is a reflection of a rift between the two.

Although Arad's resignation follows his disappointment that the prime minister didn't fight for his nomination as ambassador to London.

Arad was also a focal point of tensions within Netanyahu's bureau and with the offices of foreign leaders.