In Blow to Netanyahu, National Security Adviser Nominee Withdraws From Running

Brig. Gen. (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef, Netanyahu's pick from five months ago to replace Yossi Cohen, was never approved by the cabinet and says he's accepted a private sector opportunity.

Avriel Bar-Yosef.
Daniel Bar-On / Ginni

Five months after becoming the candidate for national security adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, Brig. Gen. (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef announced on Thursday he was withdrawing his name for the post after the cabinet had not yet approved his appointment. 

"Despite the esteem I have for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's offer to appoint me as his national security adviser, I have decided to relinquish the appointment and accept offers in the private sector," said Bar-Yosef in an announcement. "I am always willing to stand at the prime minister's side and aid him on behalf of the country and its security."

Netanyahu announced Bar-Yosef's appointment as national security adviser and the head of the National Security Council at the end of February. Bar-Yosef was to replace Yossi Cohen, who left his post at the end of last year to become director of the Mossad espionage agency.

After the Civil Service Commission gave approval for Bar-Yosef's appointment, in March the committee that vets senior civil service appointments also gave him its approval. 

Since then the Ometz advocacy group for good government has provided the Civil Service Commission and the legal adviser to the Prime Minister's Office with information concerning suspicions Bar-Yosef allegedly received various benefits and had acted with a conflict of interest when he conducted business relationships with private companies outside of Israel operating in the natural gas and shipping industries.

The Civil Service Commission and the PMO passed the complaint on to the attorney general, who instructed the police to open an investigation into the matter. The investigation has been continuing for a number of months. Bar-Yosef's appointment was, in practice, frozen during this period and his appointment was not brought to the cabinet for approval.

From 2009-2014, Bar-Yosef served as deputy head of the NSC, initially under Uzi Arad, then under Yaakov Amidror and finally under Cohen. Between 2004 and 2009, Bar-Yosef, 61, was director of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He served for 25 years in the Israel Defense Forces, where his last posting was as head of the Israel Navy's equipment branch.  He has a Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Glasgow in Scotland and a Master's in engineering from the University of Michigan.

Bar-Yosef told Haaretz too much time has passed and he has waited patiently for four months, but in the end a person "must continue with their life."  

"I received an offer from the private sector that I could not refuse. I was honest with everyone but I need to continue and live. I spoke in the past few days with the prime minister and told him I had decided to give up on the appointment. Netanyahu told me that he is very sorry that was what I decided," said Bar-Yosef. 

Bar-Yosef said that not a single legal or police official has spoken with him to clarify the claims against him over the months he has been waiting for cabinet approval.  

Since the departure of Cohen as head of the National Security Council, Brig. Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel has been acting head of the NSC. Netanyahu must now decide whether to make Nagel's appointment permanent or find another candidate for national security adviser.