Proposal: Prime Minister to Get Executive Airplane?
The Knesset will be discussing the possibility of giving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu his own private jet Sunday morning, a la Air Force One for the US President, after criticism was levied at the politician for not attending Nelson Mandela's funeral, Walla! reports.
Netanyahu stated last week that he would not be attending the funeral for reasons connected not only to financial woes, but to security risks. More importantly, however, the trip to South Africa for the event was projected to cost some seven million shekel - something he insisted Israel could not do in the current financial state.
A significant part of the high cost of flights related to the fact that Netanyahu, in contrast to the leaders of other countries, takes every flight abroad on commercial flights, paid with taxpayer money.
The government will vote on a proposal to change that situation by establishing a committee to examine whether it pays to buy official plane for the top tier of the government. The Israeli Air Force previously lent out a Boeing 707 to the Prime Minister for state use, but the plane went out of service in 2011, officials claim.
The committee, if established, would also discuss a project to build a new residence for the Prime Minister, who currently lives on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. The project would cost a projected 650 million shekel, to be slowly paid off over a 20-year period, according to the proposal.
Currently, the Prime Minister's residence and his official office are spread out over two separate areas of Jerusalem; the idea would be to create a "White House" of sorts, to combine the buildings and cut transportation costs in the long-term. The project was proposed in 2009 and has been on hold since then.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) criticized the proposals, which come during a period of immense budget cuts across the various ministries.
"In terms of values, we believe that these days of belt-tightening and tax increases gaps between rich and poor are among the highest in the world, the Israeli government should ensure their humility, and not make public measures that would make its leadership felt detached from the daily difficulties of life," Lapid stated Sunday.