Excessive spending of state funds by Netanyahu revealed

Audit points to possible criminal misconduct by Israeli prime minister and his wife

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara: a state comptroller’s report has  concluded that the Netanyahus ran up household costs that were “significantly excessive” and “inconsistent with the basic principles of proportionality, sensibility, thrift and efficiency”. Photograph: Nir Elias/Reuters

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara: a state comptroller’s report has concluded that the Netanyahus ran up household costs that were “significantly excessive” and “inconsistent with the basic principles of proportionality, sensibility, thrift and efficiency”. Photograph: Nir Elias/Reuters

 

Only a month before Israelis vote in a general election, a damning report by Israel’s state comptroller has revealed excessive spending of state funds by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

The comptroller’s report examined the spending of the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem and the Netanyahu’s private villa in the plush coastal resort of Caesarea. It followed numerous media reports of financial improprieties, many blamed on Mr Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

State comptroller Yosef Shapira concluded that the Netanyahus had run up household costs that were “significantly excessive” and “inconsistent with the basic principles of proportionality, sensibility, thrift and efficiency”.

Possible misconduct

The report revealed that the Netanyahus spent large sums of state funds on ordering takeaway meals from restaurants and hotels even though a member of staff was employed as a cook. In 2011, outside meals were ordered for the residences at a cost of €20,000.

Between 2009 and 2013, the average monthly cost for cleaning was €17,000.

The couple also hired a private electrician, a member of the prime minister’s Likud party central committee, to work on weekends at the their Caesarea home . He was also called out on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

The polls show Mr Netanyahu’s Likud running neck and neck with the centre-left Zionist Camp, jointly headed by Labour’s Yitzhak Herzog and former justice minister Tzipi Livni. It remains to be seen what impact the report will have on the Israeli electorate. Previous reports of the Netanyahu’s excessive spending did little to sway right-wing voters, who accused the “leftist media” of a witch hunt.

The Likud party said in a statement that many of the shortcomings cited had already been rectified and that Mr Netanyahu was acting on others.

“Regrettably, the media campaign in the past few weeks over this report is a clear attempt to topple the prime minister and the Likud government by trifling with petty issues and distracting voters,” the party said.

Mr Netanyahu’s aides also criticised the fact that other prime ministers were not investigated, nor other public institutions, such as the president’s residence.

Unfit claims

On Sunday, the Netanyahus, in a pre-emptive media strike, released a video showing Mrs Netanyahu escorting a top Israeli home designer around the prime minister’s residence, highlighting shabby furniture, a carpet with holes, peeling walls and an old-fashioned kitchen.

The state comptroller decided to release the report last month after it was revealed that Mrs Netanyahu had pocketed deposit money from recycled bottles from the prime minister’s residence, although some of the money was later returned to the state.

The report also clarified that garden furniture was purchased for the official residence in Jerusalem and then transferred to the Netanyahus’ private home.