Netanyahu Seeks Chief of Staff to Fix His Dysfunctional Bureau

PM hopes to appoint Israel's ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem to the post.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to appoint a chief of staff to improve his dysfunctional bureau's performance, Haaretz has learned.

However, unless certain members of the bureau staff leave, the appointment may increase the tensions and power struggles ailing the bureau even further, officials say.

The Globes newspaper reported Monday that Netanyahu's favorite for the post is Israel's ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem. Rotem was mentioned several months ago as a potential candidate, but Monday's report prompted the prime minister's bureau to issue a statement saying Netanyahu wants to reshuffle things soon.

"The prime minister is examining various candidates both from the Prime Minister's Office and outside it to replace bureau director Ari Harow, who has been forced to leave for personal reasons," the statement said.

Harow, who left several weeks ago due to health problems, and bureau chief Natan Eshel, had been in charge of the prime minister's schedule and telephone calls and the bureau's activity at large.

In the past year Eshel, formerly deputy CEO at the Yisrael Hayom newspaper, was frequently criticized for not being familiar with defense, state and economic affairs, and for not being part of most of the prime minister's activities.

The harshest criticism was over Eshel's appointment, which was reportedly due to his close ties with Sara Netanyahu. A major part of his job was said to be maintaining contact with her.

The prime minister's aides denied that Eshel was on his way out.

"Natan Eshel will remain bureau chief, and there is no intention of replacing him," an aide said. "In addition, the prime minister is considering appointing a chief of staff for his bureau."

Netanyahu's bureau has been dysfunctional for a year, racked by internal dissent and the ill-defined responsibilities of various officials. However, what has mainly been lacking is an authoritative bureau chief, one capable of coordinating between the prime minister's advisers and other ministries.

However, it is not clear how appointing a chief of staff alongside the bureau chief will improve things, officials say.

On the contrary, the appointment could lead to more friction. It is also hard to believe the remaining advisers would accept a chief of staff's authority and give up their powers and direct access to the prime minister.