Bureaucrats Up in Arms After Netanyahu Taps Close Aide for Top Absorption Ministry Job

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Perah Lerner, adviser for Knesset affairs.

The Civil Service Commissioner and the Committee on Senior Appointments, which he chairs, are at loggerheads over the nomination of Perach Lerner, a close aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as director-general of the Immigration and Absorption Ministry.

Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan has said he cannot support Lerner’s nomination due to her lack of formal management experience, which is one of the prerequisites for the job. Nor, he added, would he be able to defend her appointment if it were challenged in the High Court of Justice.

Despite Dayan’s reservations, the appointments committee approved Lerner’s nomination, on the grounds that her experience as chief liaison between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Knesset provided sufficient evidence of her management abilities. Among her duties over the past several years has been shepherding the state budget through the Knesset.

Particularly supportive of Lerner was committee member Noga Keinan, a businesswoman who is known to be close to Netanyahu.

“When they say she has no management experience, you have to remember that, while she was not directly managing subordinates, she managed a process with many people who were not subordinate to her, something that is more complex than managing underlings,” Keinan said. “She has lots of experience managing processes and the recommendations we got about her were superior, including recommendations from the prime minister and the head of the opposition.”

Keinan added that Lerner had also been recommended by directors-general and accountants-general she had worked with, as well as from former Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fisher.

Whatever Lerner’s credentials, the consideration of her candidacy was itself exceptional; generally the appointments committee will not even discuss a candidate who doesn’t meet the prerequisites. Fearing to set a precedent, Dayan decided to oppose her nomination, despite the stellar recommendations she received and the fact that people in Dayan’s office believe Lerner would make an excellent director-general.

The committee’s decision, including Dayan’s objection, was formulated two weeks ago, but has not yet been placed on the cabinet’s agenda, even though there have been two cabinet meetings since then. Those close to Netanyahu say he would prefer the cabinet approve Lerner’s appointment in August, to give him time to replace her in his office.

“The appointment of directors-general to government ministries is left to the judgment of the minister, subject to cabinet approval and an evaluation by the appointments committee, which operates and examines [candidates] in accordance with government decisions on the matter,” the Civil Service Commission said.

“The opinion of the appointments committee in the matter of the Immigration and Absorption Ministry is meant for the responsible minister [Zeev Elkin] and the cabinet. It was submitted and, at least at this stage, we are not addressing its content.”

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