Netanyahu rebuked over 'excessive spending' on homes
JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, campaigning for re-election next month, was officially rebuked Tuesday, February 17, over what the national watchdog said was excessive spending on running his private and public residences.
In a report, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira stopped short of recommending a criminal investigation, which is not within his remit, but said he had turned evidence over to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein for possible action on some cases.
The media has been circulating claims about a lavish lifestyle ahead of the March 17 election that opinion polls suggest will return Netanyahu to office.
Shapira's report details how spending on cleaning, food and repairs at the official residence in Jerusalem and the premier's private home in Caesarea rose dramatically when the premier took office in 2009, but then decreased in 2013.
It also mentions alleged mishandling of funds from recycled bottles by Netanyahu's wife Sarah, as well as the purchase of garden furniture for the weekend residence in Caesarea.
Shapira said material relating to the bottles and garden furniture, "as well as other materials", was handed to Weinstein earlier this month, because of possible criminal misconduct.
Shapira said spending was contrary to the principles of "proportionality and reasonability, savings and efficiency".
The report showed that annual spending on food at the Jerusalem home grew from 211,000 shekels ($54,521/47,825 euros) in 2009 to 458,000 shekels in 2012.
And while the house had a cook, more than 92,000 shekels was spent on food delivered from restaurants in 2011, which Shapira termed as "misconduct".
Shapira said the prime minister's office spent 8,200 shekels a month on cleaning in Caesarea even though the Netanyahus spent most of their time in Jerusalem, and called the costs "extremely excessive".
He also said Sarah Netanyahu had called in an electrician for the Caesarea home every weekend for 3 months, including on a holiday when staff were off and could not assess whether work was urgently needed.
A spokesman for the comptroller said his office had also recently handed over material pertaining to the electrician at Weinstein's behest.
Netanyahu's Likud party said he "respects the findings" and had already been implementing many of the recommendations, but tied the report's release to an "ongoing media campaign" to remove him from office.
In a separate statement, the premier's office said that it would take steps to answer all of the report's concerns.
"The prime minister's office will work to implement the recommendations in the State Comptroller's report in continuation of the actions that have already been taken and which were noted in the report," it said. – Rappler.com