Documents stored in safes in the Prime Minister’s Office were shredded on Sunday, in violation of the law, shortly before Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office.
People who worked at the office under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was he who ordered the documents shredded. It was not immediately clear which documents were destroyed or how many.
The Prime Minister’s Office said it is “unfamiliar with this issue,” but promised to look into it. A Netanyahu spokesperson deemed it “a total lie. No such thing ever happened.”
The safes containing the documents are located in the so-called “aquarium” – a sterile area where the prime minister and his most senior aides sit. They usually contain the schedules of senior officials, documents related to their work and other material.
Some of the documents in the safes were transferred to the office’s archives, as mandated by law. Once there, they will be filed so that Bennett, his ministers and his senior aides can access them as needed.
According to both a cabinet decision and the civil service regulations, shredding documents is illegal. All documents, whether public or private, are supposed to be preserved in the office’s archives, especially documents related to professional matters.
Senior legal sources said 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, they added.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Haaretz: “I haven’t shredded even a single note at the end of my tenure. I can’t recall any document we shredded at the Prime Minister’s Office… We didn’t even consider touching anything.”
The law states that when civil servants leave office, they must label all their documents and send them to the state archives. According to civil service regulations, “Every document created in the course of a civil servant’s work or received by him pursuant to work belongs to the state and must be kept in the office.
“Documents and archival material that were kept in the office of a civil servant who has ceased to occupy that job and that are directly or indirectly connected to his activities or functions as a civil servant are the property of the state,” the regulations continue. “Accordingly, every document or other material in the civil servant’s possession must remain in the office, and all material or documents kept in the worker’s home or elsewhere must be returned to the office.”