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Comatose Ex-PM Receives Car, Driver

The Ometz organization wants to know why the government is still paying for Ariel Sharon’s car and driver, given that he is bedridden.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/6/2009, 5:44 PM / Last Update: 12/6/2009, 6:22 PM

The Ometz organization for Clean Government and Social and Legal Justice wants to know why the government is still paying for Ariel Sharon’s car and driver, given that he is bedridden and unconscious.

Ometz has been in contact with the Finance Ministry and the Knesset Finance Committee regarding the annual stipend paid to Sharon. He receives 1.2 million shekels ($315 million) per year, in addition to medical and hospital costs.

Most recently, Ometz has tried to find out why Sharon still receives a car-and-driver allowance, given that his physical condition does not allow him to use a car. Based on the response it received from the Finance Ministry, Ometz has now contacted the Prime Minister’s Bureau, the Attorney General and others for an explanation.

The Finance Ministry Accountant-General informed Ometz as follows: “The Prime Minister’s Legal Counsel has informed us that the state of health of the former prime minister [Sharon] does not affect his eligibility for various benefits as set by the Knesset Finance Committee, as long as use is made of these benefits. The Prime Minister’s Bureau pays as follows: a half-time clerk for the purpose of documenting the activities of the former Prime Minister; a car and a driver; and a guard in Tel HaShomer Hospital.”

Ometz Chairman Aryeh Avneri told Israel National News, “None of these clauses are clear to us. Why should he receive a car and a driver when he doesn’t use them? Why is there a need for a guard if the hospital has plenty of guards? And why should someone be paid to ‘document’ his activities? We are waiting for answers.”

Sharon has been in a coma for nearly four years ever since he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage at the start of a national election campaign that he seemed headed towards winning. Then-Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took over from Sharon as Acting Prime Minister and Kadima party leader, becoming Prime Minister when the party won the elections at the end of March 2006.

Ariel Sharon is credited by the nationalist camp with having built up much of Jewish Judea, Samaria and Gaza before he became Prime Minister, and by the left-wing with having destroyed the Jewish presence in Gaza (Gush Katif) after he became Prime Minister.