Israelis will have to cut down on their expenses due to the planned austerity measures but at the same time, according to figures released on Monday, the budget of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Residence has increased by 80% over a period of four years.
The figures, which the Prime Minister’s Office had to release to the public following an appeal to the Jerusalem District Court by the Movement for Freedom of Information, show that the budget of the Prime Minister’s Residence was 3 million shekels in 2009, but jumped to 5.4 million shekels by 2012.
The numbers show an increase of tens of percentages in expenses in areas such as official hosting and food, cleaning and household, and purchases of furnishings and house wares, among others.
Official food and hosting expenses, set at 214,000 shekels in 2009, rose by 117% to 480,000 shekels in 2012. Cleaning expenses, which stood at 553,000 shekels in 2009, jumped by 118% and stood at 1.2 million shekels in 2012.
The cost of buying housing utensils and furniture jumped from 61,000 shekels in 2009 to 108,000 in 2012. Representation expenses, including wardrobe, shoes, makeup and hair treatment, went from 33,000 shekels in 2009 to 64,000 shekels last year.
The Netanyahus maintain three residences, including an official residence in Jerusalem, a private home in Jerusalem and a house in Caesarea.
Most of the public funding in 2012 went towards the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, the figures show, but in 2012 some 318,000 shekels in public funds were spent on the personal villa in Caesarea.
Responding to the published figures, the PMO responded, "The amounts published regarding the official expenses of the Prime Minister’s Residence include the expenses for official events held in the Prime Minister's home and the working expenses for the many meetings held at the residence. In recent months the PMO's accountant established a separate budgetary framework for official events and meetings that take place in the Prime Minister's Residence.”
Netanyahu came under criticism from the Israeli public this week after it was reported that he ordered a double bed installed on jet that took him to Britain for Margaret Thatcher's funeral, at a cost of about 500,000 shekels. The bed served Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah.
Netanyahu's bureau explained that the bed was installed in order to enable Netanyahu to rest well after a very long working day in Israel and before another long day in Britain.
Several months ago, the Hebrew-language financial daily Calcalist reported that Netanyahu’s staff had allocated an annual budget of 9,714 shekels for ice cream for the Netanyahu family. The ice cream was purchased from a local Jerusalem ice cream parlor which the Prime Minister had a particular fondness for, the report said.
In response, Netanyahu reportedly told his staff to cancel the arrangement with the ice cream parlor. “The prime minister said this is an unreasonable expense that is unacceptable to him,” an official at the prime minister’s office said.