Analysis |

'Severe Shock': Netanyahu Left Scorched Earth for Bennett at Prime Minister's Office

The reason for Netanyahu's 30-minute briefing with Bennett is that there was simply nothing to pass on, senior political official says

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on Sunday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on Sunday.Credit: Emil Salman
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

The 30 minutes that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was kind enough to give his successor were to have covered 12 years of his rule, part of which was almost autocratic. That, of course, was a joke. Except that it wasn’t funny.

Dozens of private diplomatic conversations with world leaders, agreements and understandings that go unmentioned in meeting minutes, the Iranian nuclear issues or strategic ties with the American government about which private conversations were held with Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump: All of these remain in Netanyahu’s notebooks and his memory, as if they were his private possession. The heads of the intelligence community who briefed Bennett know only some of these issues – what they were told.

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“Severe shock” is the way one senior political figure described in a private conversation the feeling of the teams that entered the Prime Minister’s Office this week. “There’s nothing. No procedures, no organizational culture, important positions not filled. Things critical to security and the economy were unbelievably neglected. There’s no organized documentation of work, not even on the Iranian nuclear issue, and ties with the White House. There’s no ministry.”

According to that figure, the neglect in the most important ministry in the country borders on a “national disaster.” He expressed shock that no one had raised an outcry in real time. “This matter will yet be investigated,” he promised, adding: “The reason for those 30 minutes is not only Netanyahu’s open grudge against Bennett. It’s because there was simply nothing to pass on. He tried to keep his distance from blame, from his responsibility for this disaster.”

Some will certainly say that this is an exaggeration stemming from a political position. But the description confirms to what has leaked out here and there, at critical junctures: Netanyahu was managing matters on his own, excluding experts, sometimes even the army chief of staff; working on the Abraham Accords, including the F-35 deal, without involving the Foreign Ministry or the air force; and let’s not even mention the submarine affair.

Bennett’s entry into office is bumpier than all his predecessors, at least in recent decades. The brutish behavior during the swearing-in ceremony at the Knesset was just the beginning of the delegitimization campaign that will be waged against him in the weeks and months to come; in the Knesset, in the right-wing press and on social media. He will have a hard time getting a full sentence out in his coming appearances. The new Knesset speaker, Mickey Levy of Yesh Atid, will see to it that order is maintained in the plenum, which his predecessor, Likud’s Yariv Levin, failed to do, with malice aforethought, during Sunday’s ceremony.

Bennett has weighty tasks ahead of him. One of these is to mold and brand his management style. It must be young, up-to-date, accessible and very high-tech. He’ll have to be modest, considerate of public funds and give ministers maximum freedom, especially the senior ones – Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gideon Sa’ar. He will have to be a professional prime minister, a technocrat.

Likud released a response, saying that Netanyahu "left the Prime Minister’s Office in the most orderly manner in the history of the office. He established the National Security Council during his first term and led it to its best ever performance, which is documented in hundreds of minutes."

The statement added that "Deliberations on the [Iran] nuclear issue, the United States, and all issues related to Israel’s security have been documented and held by the cabinet or small forums. All meetings are documented, including diplomatic talks."

"After Bennett deceived his voters, he is now slandering dozens of public servants and officials who have loyally served the State of Israel," the statement added.

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