MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) sent a letter to State Comptroller Yosef Shapira on Tuesday, asking him to investigate the enormous increase in the spending budget of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s official residence.
Figures released on Monday show that the budget of the Prime Minister’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.
"At this time, when harsh economic measures are being imposed on the Israeli public, the fact that the Prime Minister is conducting himself as if he is in a parallel universe and totally divorced from reality is particularly striking,” wrote Cabel in the letter to Shapira.
"At a time when the Prime Minister is signing off on a budget that hurts almost every home in Israel and asking the people to tighten their belts, we expect him to set a personal example and reduce spending that is funded by tax payers," he added. "Unfortunately, the data show that he chose the opposite way and brought about a disproportionate and ostentatious rise in the management of his residence.”
Cabel called on Shapira to investigate whether the expenses, as presented in the figures published, were inevitable.
“It is clear to everyone that the Prime Minister’s Residence is a place which is also used for work and hosting purposes and, therefore, enjoys generous budgets and rightly so, but it seems as though in this case any norm of modesty or proportionality has been trampled,” said Cabel.
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.