The spending habits of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are once again in the news Monday morning, and this time it’s much larger than an NIS 16,000 scoop of ice cream. A spending report that graces the front pages of all four major dailies details that the prime minister frittered away thousands of shekels on things like scented candles (NIS 6,000), cleaning (NIS 1.2 million), flowers (NIS 96,000) coffee (NIS 13,000), and NIS 9,500 for the holiest mezuzas you ever laid your hands upon.
The report covers Netanyahu’s three residences, including his Caesarea manse, used occasionally on weekends, which slurped up NIS 80,000 of taxpayer money on water alone. Apparently considering the numbers not damning enough, the Freedom of Information NGO, which FOIAed the information in the first place, says it’s still waiting for a more adequate reply, Haaretz reports.
“The information on expenses at the Prime Minister’s Residence did not reach the detail we expected,” director Alona Vinograd tells the paper. “We hope that following the process led by the movement, more figures will be given.”
Netanyahu’s response to the report came from a remark made by recently departed singer Arik Einstein to Yedioth Ahronoth in 1998: “To what degree can one suck out his life’s blood, how far can one go entering private rooms?”
However, the paper does a little sleuthing into its own archives as well and finds that Einstein likely would not have been cool with spending NIS 41,000 of public money on laundry.
“There are some things that bother me, like for example the gap between rich and poor,” the singer told the paper in 2011, taking aim at defense minister Ehud Barak, who owned a large penthouse in one of Tel Aviv’s most expensive towers, and at Netanyahu. “How is it that the poverty rate has gone up so much… Bibi and Barak aren’t the only ones sinning by living lavishly. To speak about a more fair and modest world, that’s already pathetic. We need to punish these people at the polls. People living lavishly, something is wrong with their morals. How can you live like that when across from you people have so little? You come from the same place.”
In Maariv, Aryeh Apletony writes that Netanyahu might have been wise to pick a different pop star to quote in his defense: “I wouldn’t use that sentence to defend myself. Anyone who knew Arik, and I was not one of them, would always talk about how modest the great star was; he lived for years in the same small, rent-controlled apartment, and only with great effort was able to buy it. No, that’s not the right person to bring up in these situations.”
Only Israel Hayom joins the ghost of Einstein and comes to Netanyahu’s defense, an unsurprising turn for the paper often seen as having close ties to the prime minister. Instead of leading off with how much he spent, the paper runs a Page 1 headline quoting Communications Minister Gilad Erdan calling for an end to personal attacks on Netanyahu.
The paper goes to great lengths to try and explain that the NIS 80,000 for water figure is actually for four years, and includes water for the guards watching the empty manor. The paper’s Dror Eidar calls all the hullabaloo over Netanyahu’s spending a “yearly ritual of incitement,” attacking Haaretz, Yedioth and Maariv in the process.
“You don’t need to be a dummy to realize water bills or other expenses in the Prime Minister’s Office interest the murders of crows screaming in our ears about how bad, bad, bad it is here. This is what you found? You searched for years after Netanyahu. There isn’t a stone you didn’t turn in your quest to blacken his name and his reputation. Laundry expenses? Haircuts? Water bills over several years?”
In other news, the paper also reports on a “reverse flotilla,” or allitolf, set to leave Gaza sometime soon and challenge the army in the high seas. According to IDF sources, the army is still trying to figure out how serious the threat is, but is preparing nonetheless in order to avoid a fiasco like the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine blockade-busting Turks were killed, several soldiers injured, and Israel was given a black eye in the international arena.
Yedioth reports on a secret video confab between President Shimon Peres and 29 Arab foreign ministers, including from many states that don’t have ties with Israel. Peres sat in front of an Israeli flag and was interviewed, thus avoiding the need for the foreign ministers to address him directly. Not a single participant left the room, the paper reports, and a few claps were even heard at the end. “Everyone understood that this was something historic,” a source close to the meeting tells the paper. “The president of a Jewish State sitting in his office in Jerusalem with the Israeli flag, and them sitting in the Gulf and talking about security, fighting terror and peace.”
In Haaretz, columnist Oudeh Basharat aims his quill at Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman for his defense of the Prawer plan, which will resettle the Negev’s Bedouin. Basharat then goes on to say the fight against the plan, which devolved into violence Saturday, won’t end soon. “The new people that has arisen, armed with the miracle tool Facebook, is a people that does not cry, but fights. It is fighting for its home, for its livelihood and for its human dignity. And so, fortunately, the early spring has arrived this year, actually just at the beginning of the winter. What can you do, as David Grossman wrote in his poem, spring here is short and to manage to do a few things you need to wake up early.”