Gov’t Pays for MK’s Home Decor

Ex- Kadima Speaker Itzik ordered an expensive Italian acrylic bathtub and a NIS 9,000 TV for her “office-home,” paid for by the government.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu,

Lindenstrauss and Itzik, when she was Speaker
Lindenstrauss and Itzik, when she was Speaker
Israel News Photo: Flash 90

Former Kadima Speaker Dalia Itzik billed the government NIS 111,000 ($25,000) for expensive home improvements, claiming she needed the items because she used her Jerusalem home for work. 

All of the expenditures appear to be legal because at the time Itzik became Speaker in the Olmert government, the Knesset relaxed guidelines that formerly restricted expenditures for the Speaker's ”office-home” to painting and small improvements as a result of reasonable depreciation.

The new allowances include the purchase of furniture, carpets and communications equipment up to NIS 80,000 ($20,000). The Knesset cancelled the liberal rules shortly after the purchases were reported by the Hebrew-language daily Yisrael HaYom (Israel Today) and by Channel 2 television news.

Itzik, now a Knesset Member in the Opposition and whose montlhy salary as Speaker was NIS 46,000 ($11,200), billed the government for a large array of furnishings and home improvements, including:

--Acrylic bathtub, imported from Italy, costing NIS 2,130 ($520) -- five times the cost of a regular tub;

--Large television, NIS 8,790 ($2,150);

--Curtains, NIS 5,000 ($1,220);

--Kitchen equipment and silverware, NIS 16,300 ($4,000);

--Five telephones, NIS 7,000 ($1,700);

The Knesset also allowed the Speaker a new benefit---sending out laundry, for which Itzik sent a bill for NIS 17,000 ($4,150). She also ordered new stone flooring, costing several thousand shekels.

The total cost of all improvements and items reached NIS 171,000 ($41,600), according to the figures supplied by Channel 2.

The office of Comptroller and Ombudsman Micha Lindenstrauss is investigating the Knesset policy, but the probe already has raised charges of conflict of interest. His director-general is none other than Avi Balashnikov, who served in the same administrative position in the Knesset until the recent election.

He also is a close confidant of Itzik, having been one of her senior advisors when she was Speaker, and he was involved in purchasing the items for her home.

Channel 2 reported that after Balashnikov learned of the investigation by the media, he quickly ordered more items from other suppliers in order to create the impression that there were competitive bids.

It also was revealed that the same company that is renovating the Knesset wing installed Itzik’s new stone floor. MK Itzik has returned to the Knesset several pieces of equipment, including an expensive sofa.

She has denied any wrongdoing, stating that all of the expenditures were made according to the new Knesset guidelines. The legislature’s legal advisor, Nurit Edelstein, denied that the liberal guidelines were instituted specifically for Itzik.

Former Speaker Dan Tichon told Voice of Israel government radio Wednesday that he only billed the government for utilities and that former Knesset Speakers have refused requests that they publish expenses by all former speakers.