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Israel’s Netanyahu shredded official documents ahead of Bennett taking office

The former prime minister has reportedly broken a law stating that all official documents belong to the state and must be kept in office
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the phone with US President Joe Biden on 17 February 2021 (Twitter/@IsraeliPM)

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu destroyed official documents ahead of Naftali Bennett assuming office, Israeli media reported, quoting unnamed staff members.

Netanyahu, who became the opposition leader after 12 years in power, has broken the law, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, after employees said he had ordered the shredding of documents and material kept in safes in his office. 

Israeli law states that documents created or received during the course of civil servants’ work belong to the state, and must be stored in the office, or returned if they were kept elsewhere. When an official leaves their position, documents and material should be labelled and sent to the state archive.

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All documents, public or private, in the hands of civil servants should be kept in the office's archives, particularly documents relating to professional matters.

It is unclear what type of documents, or how many, Netanyahu had destroyed. Haaretz reported that the material was kept in safes in the aquarium, a sealed area in the office where the prime minister and his senior officials meet.

Documents and schedules of senior officials are normally kept in the safes, the paper said. Some documents were already sent to the archive to be filed, after which Naftali Bennett and his top aides could have access to them.

A Netanyahu spokesperson said the story was “a total lie. No such thing ever happened.” The prime minister’s office said it was “unfamiliar with this issue,” but would look into it.

Senior legal sources told Haaretz that “what happened in Netanyahu’s office is extremely unusual. Even personal documents, for instance, officials’ schedules, are supposed to stay in the archives, with limited access for the new prime minister and his staff.”

Netanyahu will remain in the prime minister's residence in Balfour Street in West Jerusalem for an “adjustment period" lasting a few more weeks.

He will then head back with his wife, Sarah, and his children to his home in the upscale coastal town of Caesarea. He is planning to return and live in Jerusalem once security arrangements around his house in the city are completed.