In Political Switcheroo, Netanyahu Sends Export Institute Chief to Rome Embassy, Replaces Him With Crony

Maneuver seeing Ofer Sachs as new Italy ambassador and Likud director general Gadi Arielli installed in his stead made possible by Netanyahu's dual role as foreign, finance minister.

Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, May 15, 2016.
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to appoint the head of the Israel Export Institute as Israel’s ambassador to Italy, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said. The appointment will clear the way for Netanyahu to appoint a crony as CEO of the Export Institute.

The appointment of Ofer Sachs as ambassador to Italy was made possible after Netanyahu’s first choice for the job, former Italian parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein, withdrew her candidacy last week for “personal reasons.”

Sachs’ slated replacement at the Export Institute is Gadi Arielli, currently director general of Netanyahu’s Likud party. Both men will be political appointees.

Netanyahu’s ability to make these political appointments stems from the fact that he holds several government portfolios. In his role as foreign minister, he can make Sachs an ambassador, while, in his role as economy minister, he can appoint Arielli as CEO of the Export Institute.

There have been no political appointments at the Export Institute for the past five years, while Shalom Simhon (Labor), Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) and Arye Dery (Shas) served successively as economy minister. Netanyahu’s planned appointment of Arielli is therefore a reversion to the old practice of political appointments in the institute.

Netanyahu has been trying to find a way to remove Sachs from the Export Institute to make way for Arielli for the past several weeks. First, he offered Sachs, whose term at the institute was supposed to end in another year-and-a half, the job of consul general in Munich. But that post was already taken by Dan Shaham, a professional diplomat.

Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold offered to “upgrade” Shaham to the job of ambassador to Hungary. But the appointment to Budapest required the approval of the Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee, which was not forthcoming.

After Netanyahu’s attempt to appoint Nirenstein as ambassador to Italy failed, however, he was able to offer Sachs that position instead.