Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Binyamin Netanyahu's spending under fire again as home expenses near £1m

Israeli PM and wife Sara's household spending up 80% in three years – days after revelations of double bed on chartered flight.

Revelations of Binyamin Netanyahu’s profligacy come days
after anti-austerity protests in cities across Israel.

The profligacy of Binyamin Netanyahu has come under fire for the second time within a few days after it was disclosed that the amount of public money spent by Israel's first couple on household expenses rocketed by 80% in three years.

New figures show the prime minister and his wife, Sara, spent 5.43m shekels (£975,000) in their official and private residences in 2012, compared with 3.02m shekels in 2009.

The disclosure, following a request from the Movement for Freedom of Information, comes after officials ordered a "rest chamber" containing a double bed to be built inside the chartered plane which carried the Netanyahus to London last month for Lady Thatcher's funeral. The sleeping arrangements for the five-hour flight added £83,000 to the charter costs.

The Netanyahus' household spending in 2012 included £86,000 of taxpayers' money for food and hospitality, £215,000 for cleaning and maintenance, £20,000 on furniture and household utensils, and £12,000 for "representation expenses" such as clothes, hairdressing and makeup.

Most of the money was spent on the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem, but around £57,000 was spent on the Netanyahus' private villa in the upmarket seaside resort of Caesarea. According to a statement from the Netanyahu's office, the figures covered "expenses for official events held in the prime minister's home and working expenses for the many meetings held there".

The prime minister's aides were forced to cancel a contract with a Jerusalem ice cream parlour this year after the revelation of an official budget of £1,750 of public money for Netanyahu's favourite dessert caused outcry.

The latest figures were made public as the Israeli cabinet approved a two-year austerity budget which is set to raise taxes and cut public spending in order to close a 2012 deficit of £7bn. The budget includes a 1.5% rise in personal taxation, a 1% rise in VAT and cuts in child allowances.

Demonstrations against the budget measures were held in Tel Aviv and other cities at the weekend. Anger has focused on the finance minister, Yair Lapid, a former television personality whose party shot to second place in January's election after a campaign based on promises to protect Israel's financially squeezed middle class.

According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's biggest-selling newspaper, Netanyahu was accompanied by 31 aides on last week's official trip to China, including two whose role was to attend to the needs of Sara Netanyahu and the couple's two grown-up sons. The former prime minister Ehud Olmert was accompanied by 18 aides on a trip to China in 2007, the prime minister's office said.

The same paper carried an article by the commentator Shimon Shiffer, who said: "A week ago I asked one of the new ministers what surprised him most about the cabinet meetings. What surprised me, replied the minister, was that Netanyahu comes to every meeting and discussion heavily made-up. When I looked into the matter, said the minister, I learned that a pair of hairdressers and makeup artists apply themselves every morning to the prime minister and his wife's faces and hair."

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