PM's Media Adviser Appointment Creating Conflicts Among Staff

Three different spokesmen with no clear division of labor or authority could lead to embarrassing situations: Power struggles between the spokesmen could lead to the leaking of reports to the detriment of others.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The appointment of Yoaz Hendel as chief media adviser at the Prime Minister's Bureau is creating new tensions. Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu's policy and planning adviser, Ron Dermer, asked the prime minister to confirm that his authority would not be affected by Hendel's appointment.

Hendel is scheduled to be appointed this morning, replacing Gidi Shmerling. He told several officials inside and outside the prime minister's bureau that he will not be Netanyahu's spokesman, but rather a strategic consultant on issues that are not necessarily media-related.

Ron Dermer, Israel's envoy to the U.S.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Dermer, who is considered Netanyahu's closest adviser and strategic consultant, asked Netanyahu for clarification. Netanyahu told Dermer that Hendel's appointment would not affect him, and that Hendel would deal with public relations issues.

This is not the only conflict that Hendel's appointment has created. Hendel has no experience in media and policy consulting, or in diplomatic affairs, and is unfamiliar with the government system. Even his journalistic experience is limited to writing columns and magazine articles for Yedioth Ahronoth over the last two years.

Even though Hendel will be the prime minister's chief media adviser, he has said over the past two weeks that he does not intend to speak with journalists. Netanyahu was reportedly surprised when he heard this. Contact with journalists is one of the main tasks of the chief media adviser, and therefore Hendel will have to do this, he reportedly said.

Nevertheless, Hendel persuaded Netanyahu to appoint a deputy who would handle media contacts. The deputy, Liran Dan, worked for Channel 2 News, and was most recently deputy director of the company's website.

Dan's appointment is also a surprising move that bypasses the current deputy media adviser, Roni Sofer, who will continue to serve as the prime minister's spokesman.

This means Netanyahu will now have three spokesmen, up from the current two. Of the three, Sofer is the one with the most media experience - he was a journalist for more than 25 years, including five years covering the prime minister's office. Sofer declined to comment, but Haaretz has learned that Netanyahu promised that his position would not be affected and that he would have direct access to the prime minister.

If Netanyahu has three different spokesmen with no clear division of labor or authority, this could lead to embarrassing situations: Power struggles between the spokesmen could lead to a recurrence of what happened in the first half of Netanyahu's term, when various advisers in the bureau leaked reports to the detriment of others.

If Netanyahu does not want this to recur, he is advised to rectify matters.

The Prime Minister's Bureau declined to comment for Dermer.



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