Report blasts Netanyahu’s lifestyle
Jerusalem – — With Israeli elections looming and the region in turmoil, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found himself once more enmeshed in a gossipy scandal on Tuesday: a new government report alleged possible financial malfeasance at his official residence, while his wife faced criticism for pettiness and possible security breaches after complaining about their kitchen in a video.
The uproar jolted an election campaign in which Netanyahu’s opponents have tried to portray him as enjoying a lavish lifestyle and being out of touch with the struggles of average Israelis. Netanyahu’s allies angrily dismissed the allegations as part of a campaign to deflect attention from important national security issues.
In its report released Tuesday, the state comptroller, an official watchdog, cited large sums of public money spent on food, furniture, cleaning and gardening at the couple’s official residence in Jerusalem and their private home in the exclusive coastal city of Caesarea. Cleaning expenses in that home alone averaged more than $2,100 a month in taxpayer’s money, according to the report, even though the couple only spent the occasional weekend there. It also said they pocketed proceeds from recycling bottles that had been purchased for entertaining official guests. It said the bottle returns, and purchases of garden furniture for their private home, may have violated the law.
The Netanyahus are no strangers to such scrutiny. The prime minister has long been saddled with an image as a cigar-smoking, cognac-drinking socialite, while his wife has come under fire for her own expensive tastes and alleged abusive behavior toward staff.
The Netanyahus accuse the Israeli media of a longstanding witch hunt against them. The prime minister pledged to implement recommendations to curb wasteful spending.