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Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu. Spent NIS 50,000 on clothing in 2011 Photo: Gil Yohanan
Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu. Spent NIS 50,000 on clothing in 2011 Photo: Gil Yohanan
 
 

PM's living expenses hit new record

Israeli taxpayers pay NIS 2.46 million for routine maintenance of prime minister's residence in 2011 – 12% more than in 2010. Public also paying for services at Netanyahu's two other homes

Tomer Avital, Calcalist
Published: 01.08.13, 13:34 / Israel Business

Israeli taxpayers paid NIS 2.46 million (about $660,000) in 2011 for the routine maintenance of the prime minister's official residence.

 

The public also paid NIS 184,000 ($49,260) that year for Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu's private home in Caesarea, and NIS 1.1 million ($290,000) for security services at their private apartment in Jerusalem.

 

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The lion's share of the prime minister's residence budget includes the expenses of the official residents on Jerusalem's Balfour Street, which are comprised of cleaning, clothing, gardening and food expenses.

 

As a result, the Netanyahu family's living expenses have reached a new record in 2011 compared to the families of previous prime ministers, breaking the family's previous record from 2010. The total expenses soared by 12% from 2010, although the consumer price index increased by just 2.7% during that period.

 

In addition to this budget, Netanyahu enjoys a budget aimed at "establishing contact with the public," which includes his assistants' phone and Internet bills, refreshments and office equipment; a budget for trips abroad; a medical services budget; a security budget; a budget for hosting officials; and a special budget for the security of the prime minister's children.

 

The expenses of the Prime Minister's Office and its professional activity are funded separately.

 

Last year, Calcalist revealed that the prime minister's residence spent NIS 710,000 ($190,000) in 2010. Additional expenses included flower arrangements worth tens of thousands of shekels and food worth NIS 90,000 ($24,000) in the summer months (July through September).

 

Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu also purchased clothes for the highest sum permitted by the State – NIS 50,000 ($13,400).

 

PM's Office won't disclose information

Although the Freedom of Information Law requires the Prime Minister's Office to disclose information on the use of public funds, the office has concealed most of this information in the past year.

 

In April, Calcalist contacted the Prime Minister's Office and asked for information on the State's funding of Netanyahu's three homes. The request was delayed for four months – the maximum period permitted by law, and was then delayed by another four months against the law.

 

The expense report which was eventually provided was not detailed and did not include a segmentation of the expenses as had in the past.

 

Despite the refusal to disclose most of the information, the figures show that in 2011 the State funded almost NIS 200,000 ($53,500) of the expenses of the Netanyahu home in Caesarea. It's unclear, whoever, what that sum paid for.

 

In light of Netanyahu's fondness of holding his meetings in hotels, the funding of three homes raises questions.

 

Since he assumed the role of prime minister four years ago, Netanyahu has held several meetings at the Dan Caesarea Hotel, and in one case a room was also rented for his driver. Other meetings were held in Jerusalem's King David Hotel, where previous prime ministers had hosted their meetings as well.

 

Comptroller rules against investigation

Renting these hotel rooms during the day could cost more than NIS 2,000 ($535), even for just a few hours. Despite repeated appeals, the Prime Minister's Office has refused to disclose the total sums paid by the State for the prime minister's hospitality needs, although this information should be open to the public.

 

Compared to the past two decades and in accordance with the change in the consumer price index, Netanyahu leads the prime ministers' living expenses with a NIS 2.46 million ($660,000) bill.

 

Yitzhak Rabin spent an average sum of NIS 900,000 ($241,500) a year in his three years in office, Ehud Barak spent some NIS 1.4 million ($380,000) in 2000, and Ariel Sharon spent about NIS 1.2 million ($320,000) a year.

 

Ehud Olmert spent some NIS 1.6 million ($430,000) in 2007 and NIS 1.8 million ($480,000) in 2008. The only one who came near these sums was Netanyahu in his first term, when the residence's budget stood at an average of NIS 2 million ($540,000) a year.

 

The most expensive year in terms of the residence expenses was 1999 – when it was "shared" by Barak and Netanyahu. The residence's expenses totaled NIS 2.3 million ($620,000) that year.

 

Following appeals made last year, the to the State Comptroller's Office mulled the possibility of looking into the residence's expenses, but eventually decided not to probe the issue.

 

Netanyahu's office explained the 2010 expenses by saying that the residence often hosted official events and had an office operating in it most hours of the day.

 

Officials added that as opposed to previous prime ministers, Netanyahu and his wife had two sons living with them in the official residence, so the number of household members was bigger.

 

This year, the Prime Minister's Office refused to comment on the matter.

 

 

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