An inside look at Netanyahu's paid advisers
It wasn’t easy to identify Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s many paid advisers. Months of research were needed for Haaretz to obtain the list, along with descriptions of the conflict of interest arrangements they signed.
A great deal has been written in recent weeks about what goes on in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: the tense atmosphere, the suspicion, the bowed heads. The development of this article can also attest to the behavior of the PMO: In early January the PMO was asked to send Haaretz Magazine the list of Netanyahu’s paid advisers, their job descriptions, their conflict of interest arrangements and their salaries. For weeks the PMO was unable to provide even the first part of the request − the list of advisers. The information was sent only in the latter part of February, and included the names of 12 advisers. And now, in the time that has elapsed since receipt of the list, one of the prime minister’s senior advisers left the bureau: Yoaz Hendel, head of the National Information Directorate.
And there is more. About three weeks ago, the PMO was asked to explain the exact job description of Michal Sharvit, one of the advisers. The official answer, which was received after a few minutes, was surprising, and informed us that “Sharvit no longer works at the PMO.” An effort to learn about the circumstances of her departure led to a conversation with her. But Sharvit was unaware that she “no longer works” at the PMO. She said she was on a short vacation and added that not only is she continuing to work in the bureau, but she is even joining the prime minister’s trip to Washington. And what is her job? She herself refused to say, and the PMO informed us that she “is involved in a variety of jobs.”
Sharvit, incidentally, is the only one of the advisers whose signed conflict of interest arrangement includes a secrecy clause, according to which she promises not to pass on any information she received within the context of her job. A person who worked in the PMO says that Sharvit is in effect “the head of the office of the Prime Minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu,” and that she handles the organization of her schedule, her meetings, and so on. After we turned to the PMO again, media adviser Rafi Shamir said that “Sharvit is a personal adviser to the prime minister,” adding that she is in fact ending her job in the bureau.
From the list of advisers, we can learn several interesting details about the prime minister’s environment. Of the 11, only two are women. Although the PMO has no legal obligation to employ a specific number of women, it is of declarative significance (in the state-owned companies, for example, the law requires that the board of directors provide proper representation for the two sexes; in other words, 50 percent women). It is also interesting to learn that four of the Prime Minister’s advisers are actually media advisers and spokespersons.
Conflict of interest agreements were drawn up for eight of the 11 advisers. This is a document in which a candidate reveals his other preoccupations and positions, which are liable to cause him to be in conflict of interest in fulfilling his public position. According to the agreement, the employee promises to accept certain limitations on his public or personal dealings, in order to prevent a potential conflict of interest. The three remaining advisers signed a declaration to the effect that they will refrain from activities that involve a conflict of interest.
Following is the list of the 11 advisers, in alphabetical order.
Adamsu Alalli - Prime minister’s adviser on Ethiopian affairs
Alalli, 51, a native of Ethiopia who immigrated to Israel in 1983, was put in 28th place on the Likud Knesset slate before the last elections, in the “immigrant” slot. In 2010, Netanyahu appointed him special adviser on Ethiopian affairs. Alalli, married with seven children, lives in Rishon Letzion.
On assuming the position, Alalli signed a commitment to refrain from a conflict of interest.
Liran Dan - Head of National Information Directorate
Dan replaced Yoaz Hendel, who resigned from his position after the Natan Eshel affair (Eshel, Netanyahu’s chief of staff, was accused of sexually harassing a subordinate). Before his appointment, Dan, 35, was vice president of interactive media on Channel 2 News, and the editor-in-chief of News 2 on the Internet. He began working on the channel in 1999, and in the conflict of interest agreement he promised that the money he is entitled to from Channel 2 would be paid within 30 days of the day he began working at the PMO.
Dan promised “not to transfer information exclusively to Channel 2 news or to the Channel 2 franchisees, Reshet-Noga Communications and Keshet Broadcasting − or to anyone on behalf of the above. Any report that I transmit to the above media I will transmit simultaneously to at least two other media outlets of similar size. This restriction will apply to me for a one-year period, starting with the beginning of my work in the PMO.”
He also promised “not to deal with ... subjects that are liable to put me in a position of suspected conflict of interest, and in particular ... issues directly related to Channel 2 News, Reshet-Noga Communications or Keshet Broadcasting, and that exceed the transmission of information in the context of the bureau’s ongoing media activity ... this restriction will apply to me for a two-year period.”
Sharon Dartaba - Adviser for special issues
Darteba, 44, is one of the most interesting people in Netanyahu’s bureau. A man who worked with him explained that his job is to provide the prime minister with information about various people, candidates for a job or those whom Netanyahu is scheduled to meet. Last December, journalist Guy Lieberman published in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth that in 2000 Darteba prepared profiles of 94 media people for the Likud, which included information about their sexual proclivities, social and political contexts, etc.
Darteba began working for the Likud in 1995. After Ariel Sharon’s victory in the elections for the premiership in 2001, he was appointed the prime minister’s adviser for special issues, but resigned from the position because of the disengagement from Gaza. He continued to work for the Likud as an independent during the years when Kadima was in office, and returned to the PMO upon Netanyahu’s election.
In the conflict of interest agreement he declared that “between 2004 and 2009 (up until March 30, 2009) I worked independently in the fields of research and consultation, mainly for the defense establishment and for the Likud.” Darteba promised not to engage, in the context of his job, “in issues that are liable to put me in a situation of suspected conflict of interest, and particularly on issues related to ... the Likud party.”
Ron Dermer - Policy and planning adviser
Dermer, 41, is Netanyahu’s senior policy adviser. He was born in Florida; his father is Jay Dermer, who was mayor of Miami Beach. He immigrated to Israel in the mid-1990s and served as the assistant of Natan Sharansky (today head of the Jewish Agency). In 2005 Sharansky and Dermer jointly published a book “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.” Even earlier, in 2003, Netanyahu, at the time finance minister in Sharon’s government, appointed him his strategic adviser. A year later he appointed Dermer economic attache in the Israeli embassy in Washington, a position he held for four years.
During the last election campaign, Dermer was an adviser to Netanyahu. After the formation of the government, he was appointed head of the National Information Directorate in the PMO, and later became Netanyahu’s diplomatic adviser. Dermer is considered one of the advisers closest to the prime minister and the one who helps him write speeches. He also serves as a liaison to the White House and to American politicians.
In his conflict of interest agreement, Dermer declares his connections with the Adi Foundation, a nonprofit association established in memory of his late wife, Adi Dermer, and promises not to handle issues connected to the foundation. Dermer also declares that he was the sole shareholder and the director of Adidar, a consulting firm. Adidar holds about 10 percent of the shares of Midgam Research and Consulting, which conducts surveys for private and government entities (the other Midgam shares are held by Emanuel ‘Mano’ Geva, founder and director of the firm). Dermer declares that he has never been involved in decision making or management at Midgam, and was not in contact with its clients.
Adider, according to his report, was active from 1999 to 2005, and also for a short interval in 2008-2009. “In April 2009, before beginning my job at the PMO, Adider ceased its activity entirely and it no longer provides services and has not hired additional workers,” he declared. Dermer promises that during his entire tenure the firm will not provide services and will not be engaged in any activity, “except for the receipt of royalties as an owner of rights for the book ‘The Case for Democracy,’ and holding shares of companies connected to it.”
In the agreement, Dermer promises “not to handle any issue directly or indirectly related to contacts with research institutes, survey institutes and survey advisers, including processes of contacts, choosing suppliers/service providers in this field, defining conditions of making contact and any other issue involved in that. Without detracting from the above, the above does not prevent holding discussions with the prime minister’s survey adviser and receiving information from him for the purpose of formulating information strategy that is my responsibility in the context of my job, and as long as it does not undermine the restriction described in this small clause.”
He also promises that his holdings in Adider will be transferred to a trustee who will run the company without his involvement, and that he will not handle “issues that directly or indirectly affect Mr. Emanuel Geva ... Midgam and its activity” and another firm, Scout Technologies, whose shares are owned by Midgam.
Dermer also promised not to handle, for two years from the day of his appointment, issues that directly affect Adider clients. “Regarding this restriction in relation to the Likud party,” he explains, “it does not prevent contact with the Likud or with its members, as long as this is done due to and in the context of fulfilling my official job, and is not related to the issues of the party itself.”
Perah Lerner - Adviser for Knesset affairs
Lerner, 35, was formerly the adviser of then Public Security Minister Avi Dichter (Kadima), and the office manager of Zevulun Orlev when he was welfare minister (on behalf of the National Religious Party). As part of her job, she represents the prime minister on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, on Knesset committees and with MKs.
When she assumed the position, Lerner signed a commitment to refrain from conflict of interest.
Roni Sofer - Spokesman and media adviser
Sofer, 53, was the parliamentary correspondent for Ynet until his appointment. He began his journalistic career some 30 years ago, among other things on various radio stations and in the press. In the conflict of interest agreement he signed, he promised to arrange the payment of his salary from Ynet within three months from his appointment, and declared that he would refrain from “transmitting information exclusively to any newspaper and any media outlet included in the context of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper or newspaper group, and any report that I transmit for publication in these newspapers and/or media outlets, I will transmit simultaneously to at least another two media outlets of similar size. This restriction will apply to me for a one-year period, beginning with the start of my work in the PMO.”
Gabi Kadosh - Adviser on settlement issues
Kadosh, 59, was mayor of Eilat from 1993 to 2003. Before and after that he was a member of the city council and held various municipal positions. After his appointment to the position in the PMO, he moved to the settlement Alei Zahav in the northern West Bank.
In the conflict of interest agreement he signed, he declared that he is the owner and director of Israel T.D. (Tourism and Development), which was involved in real estate consulting and marketing, advice to tourism projects in Eilat and organizational-strategic advice to the Likud party in Eilat and outside the city. Kadosh also declared: “In January 2010, before assuming my position in the PMO, the company ceased its activity entirely. I promise that there will be no activity at all in the company during the period when I am serving in my job ... with the exception of the receipt of future income from two projects in which the firm was involved.”
Kadosh, as adviser on settlement issues, promises “not to handle any issue that directly or indirectly affects contacts in the real estate field, or to advise tourism projects, including processes of contacts, the choice of suppliers/service providers in this field, defining terms of contact and any other such issues. The above mentioned does not prevent my handling a tourist or real estate issue with the various government bodies and receipt of information from them for the purpose of my official position.” He also promises “not to engage in issues related directly or indirectly to the city of Eilat,” as well as issues connected to T.D. and its clients; he will transfer his shares in it to a trustee within two weeks of signing the agreement. He also promises not to deal with issues relating to the Likud party.
Mark Regev - Adviser for international media
Regev, 52, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, is probably the most familiar Israeli spokesperson in the world today, due to the tremendous number of interviews he has given over the years to the foreign media.
In 1982 Regev immigrated to Israel, and in 1990 he joined the Foreign Ministry and served in various embassies, including Beijing and Washington. Before his appointment to his position in the PMO, he was the Foreign Ministry spokesman. When he assumed the position, Regev signed a promise to refrain from conflict of interest.
Rafi Shamir - Media adviser
Shamir worked for the British embassy in Israel, was assistant to the spokesman for the Jerusalem Municipality, spokesman for the Jerusalem Education Administration and a senior media adviser for Dan-Oren Media Consulting and Strategy, one of whose heads, Amir Dan, serves as the spokesman for former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Before his appointment, Shamir promised to hand over the list of clients whose business he handled as part of his work in Dan-Oren, and declared that he would not handle issues related directly to the firm and its activity for two years from the start of his job.
In addition, Shamir promised not to deal with issues related to the British embassy in Israel, the British ambassador in Israel and relations between the countries, for 15 months from the start of his job.
Nehemiah Schneider - Prime minister’s adviser for public relations
Schneider, 69, is one of the founders of the Neve Tzuf settlement in the Mateh Binyamin regional council, and formerly chairman of the community’s secretariat. In 1988 Schneider was arrested on suspicion of causing the deaths of two residents of the Palestinian village Aboud. In February 1988, Schneider and two other people were driving through the village when they encountered a roadblock. According to a report published at the time in Haaretz, the three were attacked with stones, got out of their car and entered a nearby yard, where one of the stone throwers was hiding. One of the three was beaten and Schneider fired shots in order to rescue him from his attackers. Two residents of the village were killed. The police arrested Schneider and one of the passengers, but a Magistrate’s Court judge released them after determining that the evidence indicated that Schneider had fired in self defense. Schneider was tried in the Jerusalem District Court and acquitted.
In the conflict of interest agreement he signed, Schneider declared that he worked in the Likud movement in the ombudsman’s department from 2008 to 2009. In addition, “during the years 2003-2008 I volunteered regularly in the settlement of Neve Tzuf, where I live.” Schneider promises not to deal with issues with a direct influence on the Likud movement and on the settlement of Neve Tzuf and its members. He also declares that he will not deal with issues relating to the blood donors’ organization, Magen David Adom and hospitals where he volunteered.
Michal Sharvit - Prime minister’s adviser in the PMO
Sharvit, a resident of Jerusalem, is in effect the head of the office of the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu. Prior to assuming her position, from 2005 to December 2008, Sharvit worked in the Jerusalem Municipality as foreign relations coordinator for then mayor Uri Lupolianski. According to her conflict of interest agreement, her work in the municipality included, among other things, writing speeches in foreign languages, coordinating donor files, arranging meetings, visits and tours for foreign visitors, and preparing the mayor’s trips abroad. Incidentally, Sharvit is cited in U.S. State Department documents that were published last year on WikiLeaks, in conversations with the U.S. consul in Jerusalem about the mayor’s policy regarding the demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem and about plans to renovate the Mughrabi Bridge.
In the conflict of interest agreement, Sharvit declared that she is the owner of 50 percent of the shares of Alalim Publishers, and that since September 2009 she has been engaged in translation, layout and print productions with the firm. The list of the firm’s clients was appended to the agreement she signed. Sharvit requested special permission to complete, after assuming her position, projects on which she had begun to work previously, and declared that she intended to sell the firm’s shares to a relative by May 2011. She promised not to deal with issues related to the firm or its clients.
Sharvit’s agreement includes a secrecy clause, which does not exist in the agreements of the other advisers. Sharvit “promises to keep secret and not to transmit, inform, hand over or bring to anyone’s knowledge any information that reaches me in the context of my job, or to use it for personal needs or for the benefit of groups to which I am connected, during the period of my work in the office, before it begins or afterward, with the exception of information that has become common knowledge.” Sharvit declares that she is aware that failure to fulfill the promise constitutes a violation of the law.
Ex-adviser Yoaz Hendel - Former head of the National Information Directorate in the PMO
Dr. Yoaz Hendel, 36, was appointed head of Netanyahu’s National Information Directorate in August 2011. He resigned last month, following the Natan Eshel affair, when according to various reports, Netanyahu told him that he had lost confidence in him. Hendel was replaced by Liran Dan.
Hendel, a major in the reserves, now lives in Jerusalem. He was born in Petah Tikva, grew up in the settlement of Elkana and in the army served as a fighter and an officer in Shayetet 13, the elite naval commando unit. He did his doctorate at Tel Aviv University on the subject “Intelligence in the ancient world − from the Hasmonean Revolt to the Bar Kochba Revolt.” Before his appointment to the position he published articles in Yedioth Ahronoth and presented the program “Security Strip” on Army Radio. In September 2010, together with Prof. Zaki Shalom, he published the book “Defeating Terror: The Story Behind Israel’s Victory Over the Palestinian Intifada,” which was about the second intifada. He also taught at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan.
In his conflict of interest agreement, Hendel promised that for about one year he would not transmit exclusive information to the newspapers Makor Rishon and Yedioth Ahronoth, or to Army Radio, and that any information he gave to these media outlets would also be given to at least two other media outlets. He also promised that for 18 months from the conclusion of his employment at Bar-Ilan, he would not handle issues related to it. He declared that he would not deal with issues directly related to ISPS, its owners or executives.
Hendel was registered in the past as an executive in the firm. According to its website: “ISPS, founded in 2005 by former Israeli Defense experts, was created to protect property from theft and secure businessmen from personal injury, specifically in the diamond industry.
“Building a solid reputation, ISPS developed a close and fruitful cooperation with the world’s largest insurance companies, training more than 600 businessmen, diamond specialists and jewelers worldwide.
“ISPS specializes in prevention and security by training agents how to secure diamonds and jewelry from loss; prevention of kidnappings, prevention of theft at exhibitions, stores, offices and from persons; identifying criminal activity before it occurs.”