Last updated: 17 May, 2013

Israeli taxpayers bankroll Netanyahu home

Israeli taxpayers, already fuming at a draft belt-tightening budget which seeks to slash spending and hike taxes, paid $88,000 last year for upkeep of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private seaside home, the daily Haaretz reported Friday.

It said that the spacious family home in the exclusive Caesarea resort is never used for official business and is occupied by the Netanyahus only during holidays and some weekends when they get away from the official residence in Jerusalem.

The report of the 318,000-shekel ($88,000, 68,000-euro) annual maintenance bill for the house, pool and garden comes as a draft austerity budget which seeks to hike taxes and slash spending is to go before parliament.

Thousands of Israelis marched last Saturday in protest against the budget plan, which would raise income tax and VAT and cut welfare benefits.

The latest report follows revelations that Netanyahu ordered a double bed installed on a plane flying him to London last month for the funeral of Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, at a cost of $127,000 (98,000 euros).

Public anger over the austerity cuts and the so-called “bedgate” affair was further stoked on Tuesday by reports that the expenses of the premier’s official residence rose from 1.89 million shekels in 2009 to 3.29 million in 2012 (from $520,000 to $905,000) — an increase of nearly 75 percent.

The figures were spelled out in a document submitted to the High Court by Netanyahu’s office in response to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government, details of which were published in the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot daily.

According to the document, annual food and entertaining expenses grew from 214,000 shekels in 2009 to 480,000 in 2012 ($59,000 to $132,000), while cleaning and housekeeping rose from 553,000 shekels to 1.2 million ($152,000 to $330,000).

Two months ago, reports showing the Netanyahu family enjoyed a state-funded 10,000-shekel ($2,700) allowance for ice cream deeply embarrassed the premier, prompting him to cancel it hurriedly.