Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Israeli PM's expenses come to light

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly spent more than £1,000 of public money on scented candles for his home

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticised for spending more than £1,000 of public money on scented candles for his official residence in Jerusalem.

The newspaper Maariv also attacked him for spending £142,000 on flower arrangements and £19,300 on gardening among other costs totalling around £550,000 in 2012.

The expenses were detailed in a document released by a civil liberties group following a freedom of information request.

Israelis have long accused Mr Netanyahu of leading a lavish lifestyle while failing to address middle class economic woes. He came under fire in the past for spending £77,000 on a special sleeping cabin on a flight to London and £1,800 on ice cream.

The report threatens to embarrass Mr Netanyahu, whose government raised taxes and slashed services earlier this year to decrease a swelling budget deficit. Coupled with a rising cost of living, Israelis have for years complained that they struggle to make ends meet. Just two years ago, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the country's high cost of living.

"When the prime minister presents such inflated and absurd amounts in the expense sheet to the nation, he can't look at his citizens in the eye and swear that there must be cuts to their welfare, health care, security and education," wrote Arye Aplatoni in the Maariv daily.

Mr Netanyahu was also shown to spend £7,200 on laundry and £25,300 on catering at his official residence. Expenses for his holiday home in the Caesarea, where he and his family stay on weekends, were also disclosed. The water bill there amounted to more than £13,000.

The prime minister's office said the official residence is used throughout the year to host dignitaries and world leaders, as well as meetings with many participants. While media reports said his spending was roughly £183,000 over budget, it said this year has seen a decrease in expenses at the official residence by 16%.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Mr Netanyahu's continued sprees may violate the trust of his constituents. "The public will conduct its own introspection and just as they sent him to the prime minister's residence they can also remove him," he said.

-AP

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