Lieberman Names Ex-ministers From His Own Party to Head Top Defense Firms

Yair Shamir will head Israel Aerospace Industries, which he previously chaired from 2005-2011, while Yitzhak Aharonovitch will chair Israel Military Industries.

Lieberman at a tour of the Northern Command, June 2016.
Ariel Hermony

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday appointed two former ministers from his own party to head two major state-owned defense companies.

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Lieberman, along with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, appointed former Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir as chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries, while ex-Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch will head Israel Military Industries, the defense minister’s office announced yesterday.

Shamir, the son of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and a onetime pilot in the Israel Air Force who retired with the rank of colonel, has served as IAI chairman before, from 2005 to 2011.

Aharonovitch also previously served as tourism minister and was deputy police commissioner from 2002-2004. He was CEO of the Dan bus company between 2004 and 2005. He announced his retirement from politics in January 2015, before the last Knesset election.

“These are the two most appropriate people for these jobs, and they will bring the companies they lead forward,” said Lieberman.

IMI is currently in the process of being privatized, as part of a 2014 agreement between the company, the Histadrut labor federation and the government.

IAI is considered one of Israel’s leading defense companies, but in recent years has shown only modest profits. Previous Chairman Rafi Maor announced he was leaving IAI in May, after the Government Companies Authority opened an investigation into his actions.

When Shamir was previously chairman of IAI, it was reported in April 2009 that the company was selling three drones to Russia for $50 million. When asked by TheMarker about such defense exports, Shamir said, “Relations with Russia are not completely clear, and I am of the opinion that we need to develop them. Russia is a power and it is impossible to ignore it.”