ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ורעייתו שרה ממריאים לביקור מדיני בלונדון
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to press before state visit to London
Photo: GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to press before diplomatic visit to London

Netanyahu's pre-election overseas trips cost taxpayer fortune, memos reveal

The information, released after a government watchdog filed a petition to Jerusalem court, shows flights were never approved by relevant diplomatic and legal bodies; PM's Office says trips did not exceed 'usual costs'

Yael Freidson |
Published: 05.31.20 , 10:41
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's diplomatic voyage prior to last year's second round of elections in September cost the Israeli taxpayer some NIS 5.6 million ($1.6 million), according to a new report published on Sunday.
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  • The information was revealed following a freedom of information petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel to the Jerusalem District Court.
    ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ורעייתו שרה ממריאים לביקור מדיני בלונדוןראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ורעייתו שרה ממריאים לביקור מדיני בלונדון
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to press before diplomatic visit to London
    (Photo: GPO)
    According to documents submitted to the government watchdog, Netanyahu's three-day visit to Ukraine last August apparently cost NIS 1.9 million, while the premier's two-day trip to London in September cost about NIS 2.6 million. During the visit, Netanyahu briefly met with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, in a meeting that lasted only half an hour.
    Netanyahu's September visit to the Russian city of Sochi – which also lasted two days - cost NIS 1.1 million.
    The flights in question were reportedly not approved and coordinated by the relevant diplomatic and legal bodies, as required, and were only okayed by the government.
    פגישת בנימין נתניהו ובוריס ג'ונסון בלונדוןפגישת בנימין נתניהו ובוריס ג'ונסון בלונדון
    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting in London
    (Photo: AP)
    The Movement for Quality Government in Israel condemned the premier's global mission and criticized the flaws in its approval process.
    "This is how a government that is out of touch with the people and cynical and inappropriate use of public funds for an election campaign look," read a statement. "The taxpayer paid out nearly NIS 6 million so the prime minister could have his picture taken next to world leaders."
    The organization slammed the fact that there are no records of any discussions being held on whether the trips in question served public interest.
    "We view in a very serious light the attempt to conceal this information, which should be available to the public, while trying to drag time. It has finally reached the public eye almost a year after the election. This horse has already bolted."
    ביקור של רה"מ בנימין נתניהו בקייב | פגישה עם נשיא אוקראינה וולודימיר זלנסקיביקור של רה"מ בנימין נתניהו בקייב | פגישה עם נשיא אוקראינה וולודימיר זלנסקי
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Ukrainain President Volodymyr Zelensky
    (Photo: GPO)
    The Prime Minister's Office said in response that the flights in question did not exceed usual flight costs and that "the State of Israel is experiencing an unprecedented diplomatic bloom thanks to the prime minister's visits".
    Netanyahu also held a series of trips abroad before previous elections, which his critics claimed were aimed to promote his Likud party's election campaign.
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