Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday appointed a new head of his bureau's National Information Directorate, the fifth person to hold the job since Netanyahu took office three years ago.
Liran Dan was appointed one day after his predecessor, Yoaz Hendel, resigned the post. Dan previously served as Hendel's deputy.
Hendel resigned on Tuesday after Netanyahu said he had lost faith in him. Hendel, along with Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser and Netanyahu's military secretary, Yohanan Locker, had informed the attorney general of harassment allegations against Natan Eshel, then Netanyahu's bureau chief. Eshel was forced to resign, but Netanyahu said he had lost faith in all three advisors because they did not inform him of the suspicions first.
Nevertheless, Hauser is not expected to either resign or be fired. He is to join Netanyahu on the latter's trip to Canada and the United States next week.
Yesterday, Netanyahu spoke publicly for the first time about the rift in his bureau following the Eshel case, saying the situation was "difficult, painful from a human standpoint, uncomfortable and unpleasant." But he added, "We have good people and we will find a way to get over this."
Speaking ahead of a press conference on the recommendations of a panel investigating economic concentration, Netanyahu reiterated that he had lost faith in his three advisers because they did not inform him of the suspicions against Eshel. He rejected the claim that he would not have treated the matter seriously if it had been brought to him.
"What is proper in any system is that if there is a suspicion of harassment, the authorities should be informed - the legal authorities - and it should be handled," he said. "That is exactly what I would have done, let there be no doubt about it.
"What is improper in any system is that the head of that system, in this case the prime minister, should not know about such an important issue for a month and a half and has to read about it in the paper," he added.
Hendel met yesterday with Netanyahu at the latter's request, and Netanyahu again explained why he had lost faith in his onetime close aide. The prime minister then asked Hendel to state for the minutes that he was resigning, so it would not appear that Netanyahu had fired him.
Hendel convened the Information Directorate staff yesterday to say good-bye. He explained that after two meetings with Netanyahu, he had realized that there was a lack of confidence between him and the prime minister and he could not remain at his post. He told his staffers he would be leaving at the end of March.
Shortly thereafter, the Prime Minister's Bureau announced that Dan would replace Hendel. Dan, 35, has been responsible for liaising with journalists for the past six months.
Yesterday, Netanyahu met with R., who was the target of Eshel's harassment. He asked her to be strong, told her he understood she had been through a difficult time and said he hoped things would calm down soon.
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