Critics bug PM on £83,000 plane bed
Benjamin Netanyahu will seek alternate sleeping arrangements when travelling after receiving a sky-high bill for installing a customised bed on a flight to London, officials close to the Israeli leader said.
Mr Netanyahu found himself facing a public uproar after Channel 10 TV reported over the weekend that he had spent £83,000 in public funds on a special sleeping cabin for the five-hour flight to attend Margaret Thatcher's funeral last month.
His office initially defended the decision, saying the prime minister had a busy schedule ahead of the flight and needed to be fresh for important meetings in the UK. But following public criticism, officials close to Mr Netanyahu said he had been unaware of the cost and once informed, ordered the bed to be cancelled on all future flights.
The prime minister's office does not have its own plane, such as the US presidential aircraft Air Force One. Instead, Israeli leaders must charter a plane when travelling abroad. Some commentators claim it would be cheaper in the long run to buy and maintain a plane reserved for official travel of the prime minister and other officials.
The uproar comes at a delicate time - Mr Netanyahu's government is in the process of drawing up a budget expected to include painful austerity measures and tax increases due to a widening deficit.
On Saturday night several thousand people took to the streets in Tel Aviv and other cities to protest at the expected budget cuts.
Micky Rosenthal of the opposition Labour Party called for an inquiry into the prime minister's "scandalous behaviour", according to the Maariv daily.
"We thought that nothing could surprise us anymore when it came to the Netanyahus' personal behaviour. Well, we thought wrong," Sima Kadmon, a political commentator in the Yediot Ahronot daily, wrote of the bed revelation.
"It is unbelievable that not a single person in the prime minister's inner circle saw how reprehensible this was. Not a single person showed a tiny bit of common sense. There was no one who anticipated just how angry people would be when they learned about this."
Earlier this year Mr Netanyahu stopped buying ice cream from his favorite Jerusalem parlour after an Israeli newspaper discovered his office was spending £1,765 a year on the treat.