So who’s in Bibi’s circle of power?
The key to getting close to Israel’s new prime minister appears to be: make friends with his wife first
While Binyamin Netanyahu’s more controversial ministerial choices grab the headlines, his small team of aides and advisers are settling in to their new roles in Israel’s corridors of power. Most of them have been with him for years and proved their loyalty during his long period in the political wilderness.
No less important, they have all been vetted by the prime minister’s ultimate confidante — his wife, Sara.
There are two circles of advisers. The inner circle is comprised of those who Mr Netanyahu does not move without — people who have no personal agenda save that of helping the boss. The outer-circle members are also very loyal but are seen as more independent.
The Inner Circle
● The Prime Minister’s new chief of staff, Natan Eshel, has been an unofficial adviser and close friend of Sara Netanyahu for years. He was managing director of the now defunct Hatzofe daily newspaper and acted as Mr Netanyahu’s emissary to the senior rabbis. Over the past two years, he was executive director of Yisrael Hayom, the new daily newspaper set up by Mr Netanyahu’s backer, billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Mr Eshel will be in charge of Mr Netanyahu’s schedule and will ensure Sara always has access to her husband.
● Ron Dermer hails originally from the US, offspring of a prominent Republican family. He has worked closely with Mr Netanyahu on media matters for the past decade. He will head the information department in the Prime Minister’s Office and will coordinate all government work with the foreign media. Mr Dermer needs his boss’s backing as he gears up for turf wars over the various government media outlets.
● Diminutive, red-haired Ari Haro has been Mr Netanyahu’s personal aide for the past three years and his chief of staff as head of the opposition for the past year. Now he becomes deputy chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office and remains, physically at least, the closest man to Mr Netanyahu, controlling contact with him during public appearances and leading his entourage.
A former leader of the Likud in the United States, Mr Haro is an example of the confidence Mr Netanyahu has in religious young men with American accents.
● Yitzchak Molcho is his man for secret missions. He grew up in Jerusalem with the young Bibi, has never held a government position, and is a successful commercial lawyer. He advises Mr Netanyahu on delicate legal issues and is the man sent to the meetings that are strictly confidential. Yitzchak Molcho is the man who knows where all the Prime Minister’s skeletons are buried.
The Outer Circle
● The new chairman of the National Security Council served as head of research in the Mossad and was Mr Netanyahu’s diplomatic adviser during his first term as prime minister. For the past decade, Uzi Arad was the chairman of the annual Herzliya Conference, Israel’s most prestigious gathering of decision-makers. He accompanied Mr Netanyahu on many of his trips abroad and to meetings with foreign politicians. He is currently barred from visiting the United States following a scandal in which he was accused of contact with Larry Franklin, an American indicted on espionage charges.
● The new Cabinet Secretary, Zvi Hauser, was Mr Netanyahu’s press secretary when he was head of the opposition in the early 1990s. Mr Hauser went on to serve in a series of senior positions in the Communications Ministry. For the past ten years he has made a small fortune as a lawyer. As cabinet secretary, he is the Prime Minister’s main enforcer, with a central role in implementing Mr Netanyahu’s policies across the board.
● A relative newcomer to the group, Yossi Levi is Mr Netanyahu’s press secretary. A veteran journalist on Maariv newspaper, Mr Levi moved to become Avigdor Lieberman’s press officer during Mr Lieberman’s short term as Strategic Affairs Minister. He joined Mr Netanyahu just before the elections campaign and has succeeded in gaining the Prime Minister’s confidence in a very short time. But can the perpetually rumpled hack keep his master’s ear now that everyone wants a piece of power?
● Another close friend of Sara Netanyahu, Shaya Segal, is a veteran PR executive who serves as Mr Netanyahu’s unofficial political adviser and confidante. Mr Segal used to be Ariel Sharon’s press secretary over a decade ago but in recent years has gravitated towards Mr Netanyahu. His influence may be on the wane now, depending on how his friendship with Sara goes.
● Uri Yogev was formerly head of the Budget division in the Treasury and is now a private businessman. He is also Mr Netanyahu’s closest financial adviser. He worked closely with the prime minister when Bibi was finance minister, and they share the same free-market ideals. Mr Yogev will exert considerable influence on fiscal policy, especially after the appointment of the inexperienced Yuval Steinitz as new finance minister.
● Yisrael Bachar is one of the least known men around Mr Netanyahu, but potentially one of the most influential. He is personal pollster to a politician with an addict’s appetite for polls and surveys. Bibi trusts the data offered to him by Mr Bachar, especially since he accurately predicted the election results, and is expected to find him a role in the Prime Minister’s office.