Watchdog Thwarts PM's Move to Reappoint Top Lieberman Aide to Foreign Ministry

When Netanyahu approached the Civil Service Commission seeking to have Sharon Shalom reappointed, he was apparently unaware of the secret police investigation being conducted against the former ministry bureau chief.

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed for the reappointment of an associate of Avigdor Lieberman as head of the minister’s bureau in the Foreign Ministry, but senior Jerusalem sources said the Civil Service Commission froze the appointment because the official, Sharon Shalom, is under criminal investigation.

The commission stepped in, the sources said, due to the criminal probe of Shalom over suspicions of financial irregularities in the foreign minister’s bureau during Lieberman’s tenure in the ministry. Shalom is the closest of a number of Lieberman associates still at the ministry, having worked with the Lieberman for many years. Shalom was also questioned in a criminal probe of Lieberman that has since been closed involving allegations of Lieberman’s use of straw corporations.

The former foreign minster, who heads the Yisrael Beiteinu party, remains a Knesset member but he stepped down as foreign minister in December after being charged with fraud and breach of trust. Technically, the post of foreign minister is currently being filled by Netanyahu himself. When Netanyahu approached the Civil Service Commission seeking to have Shalom reappointed, he was apparently unaware of the secret police investigation being conducted against the former ministry bureau chief, sources said. The fact that it became public several days ago led to the appointment being blocked.

Sources at the Civil Service Commission acknowledged that the office received a report from police on the criminal investigation against Shalom. The sources said the commission asked the Foreign Ministry to put Shalom’s reappointment on hold until the commission takes a formal position on it. This is not expected to happen until Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein issues an opinion on the matter.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond when asked by Haaretz whether Netanyahu intended to withdraw the nomination of Shalom and whether Netanyahu had spoken, met with, or given any work assignments over the past month to any of the three remaining close associates of Lieberman in the foreign minister’s bureau.

After Lieberman’s resignation, Shalom left government service and took a position on the campaign staff of the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ticket in the run-up to this past January’s Knesset election. As part of the alliance between Netanyahu’s Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman asked Netanyahu to save the foreign minister’s spot for him until after his criminal case is concluded. The continuing trial is expected to last for months.

In his capacity as foreign minister, Netanyahu approached the Civil Service Commission several weeks ago asking for permission to return Shalom to his post as head of the foreign minister’s bureau. One Foreign Ministry source said the request was made at Lieberman’s behest, but another ministry source said the request resulted from Shalom’s experience, which was essential now with a battle going on over the budget the ministry will receive.

The return of Shalom to his powerful former post could also be a problem in light of the criminal trial against Lieberman because a number of senior Foreign Ministry officials who report to the bureau chief are expected to testify shortly.

Sharon Shalom.Credit: Moti Kimche

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