Cabinet Votes in Measure to Ease Dismissals of Officials

Amendment widely seen as aimed at Government Corporations chief Uri Yogev.

Director of the Government Companies Authority, Ori Yogev.
Tomer Appelbaum

Uri Yogev, the controversial chief of the Government Corporations Authority, looked closer to getting fired after the cabinet on Sunday approved an amendment to the law that would make it easier for ministers to dismiss top officials.

The plan, which was submitted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, would transfer authority to approve dismissals from an independent committee to one inside the Civil Service Administration.

Although it is also nonpartisan and professional, the civil service committee, which is chaired by Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan, is expected to be more accommodating when ministers seek to fire an official than the independent committee, which is headed by retired Judge Jacob Turkel.

Yogev, who is in charge of the government-owned companies like Israel Aerospace and Israel Electric Corporation, is the target of the amendment after he clashed with Kahlon, to whom he reports over the issue of naming directors to company boards.

The issue, while seemingly technical, cuts to the heart of political interference in state-owned companies.

On Sunday, sources close to Yogev said he would not comment on the cabinet decision, saying that for the record he regarded it as a legal decision, not a personal one. “Yogev is preparing for a struggle up to September 2017 when he is supposed to complete his term,” said one source, who asked not to be identified.

They said Yogev was determined to complete the privatization of Israel Military Industries and see off ministers seeking to appoint political allies to state-company boards.

Yogev has been fighting the system of patronage by opening the nominations process to the public to nominate experienced, independent directors. In any event, for now it was unclear how quickly Kahlon would ask the Civil Service Commission panel to review Yogev’s dismissal.

Kahlon may face legal obstacles to firing Yogev, Ron Duhl, the Civil Service Commission’s legal adviser, told the cabinet. In an opinion backed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, he expressed concern over the fact that the amendment applies retroactively to officials appointed before it was approved. Duhl and Mandelblit said that provision made the decision vulnerable to a High Court appeal.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday he would not seek to replace independent search committees for top officials as he had threatened a week ago. Instead, the prime minster said he would seek changes to the process that would give ministers more say.