Itongadol.- Following an administrative appeal by The Movement for Freedom of Information to the Jerusalem District Court, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to publish the PM\’s Residence expenses report, and the information reveals the budget grew by about 80% in the years 2009-2012, and was estimated at NIS 3.29 million ($920,000) last year compared to NIS 1.8 million ($504,000) in 2009.
The expenses report includes the official residence on Balfur Street in Jerusalem and Netanyahu\’s private homes in Caesarea and on Gaza Street in the capital. Official food and hosting expenses, set at NIS 214,000 ($60,000) in 2009, more than doubled to NIS 480,000 ($135,000) last year. Cleaning expenses that stood at NIS 61,000 ($17,000) jumped to NIS 108,000 ($30,000) last year. Representation expenses, including wardrobe, shoes, makeup and hair treatment, nearly doubled from NIS 33,000 ($9,200) to NIS 64,000 ($18,000).
Criticism towards the Netanyahus and their lifestyle has increased recently. It was revealed two months ago that the PM\’s Residence requested an additional NIS 10,000 ($2,800) for ice cream budget, and during the past weekend Channel 10 revealed that the PM and his wife requested and received a separate bedroom compartment on the flight to Margaret Thatcher\’s funeral last month.
The information was revealed at a time when harsh austerity measures proposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid – including higher income and VAT taxes and cuts to child support – are set to weigh heavily on the public. The couple maintains three residences, including the house on Gaza Street in Jerusalem and the house in Caesarea, for which the State pays. It appears the Netanyahus are taking full advantage of the funding and spend tens and hundreds of thousands of shekels every month.
Ofer Doron, the attorney who filed the appeal on behalf of the movement, said that "in this case, a legal procedure is required solely because the PM\’s Office denied the basic demand to disclose information that is supposed to be revealed to the public. Hopefully legal proceedings will not be necessary in order to get this very basic information next time."
Alona Winograd, head of the movement, added that "the recent public interest shows that the public has already understood the importance of transparency within State authorities. It is now left for the decision makers in those organizations to internalize their duty to act with accountability to their people."