Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu exceeded the budget for his residences by a million shekels, according to an expenditure report released Sunday.
The report, which covers 2012, was released following an appeal by the Movement for Freedom of Information. According to the figures, cited by the Globes financial newspaper, total household expenditure for the Prime Minister's residences in Jerusalem and Caesarea reached 3.2 million shekels in 2012.
This figure comprised 2.9 million shekels for the official Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem and 312,000 shekels for his private home in Caesarea. The taxpayer must foot this bill even though annual expenditure of only 2.2 million shekels had been approved for the Prime Minister's homes, noted Globes.
At the Prime Minister's home in Caesarea, 20,000 shekels were spent on gardening in 2012 and a further 26,000 shekels on electricity. The annual water bill totaled 80,000 shekels, mostly for the private swimming pool in the home, including more than 5,500 shekels in taxes for excess use.
Expenditure included 6,000 shekels on scented candles and a further 10,000 shekels on flower arrangements. While the Prime Minister uses the official residence in Jerusalem for work meetings and hosting dignitaries and events, the Caesarea home is for his private use.
In his Caesarea home, more than 10,000 shekels were spent on changing blinds, and 120,000 shekels on maintenance and cleaning, according to Globes. Telephone bills amounted to more than 26,000 shekels and 7,600 shekels were spent on a new fridge.
The Prime Minister, according to the report, spent 36,406 shekels on catering in 2012.
Responding to the expenditures, the Prime Minister's Office said that a new computerized system for managing finances was implemented in February.
“2012 is an exceptional year in the volume of payments on a cash basis and includes an expense of 430 thousand shekels which causes distortion, because the amount does not belong to the 2012 expenses,” said the PMO.
It was also noted that Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem is used, among other things, as an additional workplace where many activities are held, including meetings and hosting various officials from Israel and abroad.
“It should be emphasized that it is impossible, in the framework of the accounting system, to separate between the expenses of the home as the private residence of the Prime Minister and his family, and between the special expenses for official activities of the Prime Minister's Residence,” said the statement.
The PMO also invoked the late Israeli singer Arik Einstein who passed away last week and, in an interview in 1998, said that the media was “sucking Netanyahu’s blood.”
“They act with horrible injustice toward Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Einstein said at the time. “They abuse him, and I’m simply shocked at the force of the disrespect and hatred .... To what degree can one suck out his life’s blood?”
Responding to the expenditure report, opposition head MK Yitzchak Herzog (Labor) criticized Netanyahu and reminded him that, while he deserves respect as Israel’s Prime Minister, it does not mean that he is allowed to overspend.
“Anyone who spends disproportionately and does not respect the public criticism over it, time and time again, should keep in mind that the public who let him into the Prime Minister’s Residence is also the one who could take him out of there," Herzog wrote on his Facebook page.
Israelis were outraged several months ago when it was revealed that the budget of the Prime Minister’s Residence, which stood at 3 million shekels in 2009, jumped to 5.4 million shekels by 2012 - an increase of 80%.
The numbers showed 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.
That report came several days after Netanyahu came under criticism from the Israeli public because 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.
Several months earlier, 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.
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.