The government is considering buying a jet for use by the country’s top leaders, The Marker reported Saturday, a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under public criticism for spending $127,000 of public money to have a bed installed on a plane for a five-hour flight.
The plane would be purchased by the Prime Minister’s Office for use by the prime minister, president and top ministers on trips abroad. Currently Israeli leaders fly commercial or charter private flights.
The plan was first brought up for exploration in 2010 as a way to defray costs of flying the prime minister abroad, in the wake of a report at the time that the Prime Minister’s Office had spent an extra NIS 1.2 million ($300,000) to charter a wide-body plane with a bed.
In 2010 then-Kadima MK Avi Dichter said Netanyahu’s flights were costing the state NIS 17 million ($4.5 million) a year, and purchasing a plane would cost NIS 70-100 million ($18-26 million), Haaretz reported at the time. Assuming NIS 5 million ($1.3 million) a year in maintenance, Dichter said, the plane would pay for itself in seven years and save the country NIS 12 million ($3 million) a year after that.
Last week, Netanyahu was blasted by politicians and the public when it emerged his request for a double bed on a flight to London for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in April had cost the state nearly half a million shekels.
The news came as the government was discussing an unpopular slate of tax hikes and sharp cuts to public programs as part of a new state budget aimed at narrowing the deficit.
Netanyahu and some of his predecessors have come under fire for traveling in a way that critics say is too extravagant. In 2009, the state comptroller panned then-defense minister Ehud Barak for spending NIS 13,700 ($3,690) a night on a hotel room for a trip to the Paris Air Show, and wasting thousands more on empty hotel rooms.
According to Haaretz, former prime minister Ehud Olmert also chartered planes on several occasions and requested bedrooms be installed.