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Bennett visits Prime Minister’s Residence for first time since taking office

Premier tours official home on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street to inspect renovation plans, calls for work at site to be sped up

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visits the official Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on December 1, 2021. (GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visits the official Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on December 1, 2021. (GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday visited his official residence in Jerusalem for the first time since taking office.

The Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street has been undergoing renovations and security upgrades since former premier Benjamin Netanyahu moved out in July after living there for 12 years.

Bennett, who has young children in school, has remained at home in his residence in Ra’anana, to the consternation of his neighbors.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Bennett toured the property “to inspect the progress in preparing the residence for use” and reviewed the renovation plans.

“He directed that the timetable be brought forward so that the renovations will be completed before the December 2022 target date,” a statement from the PMO said.

The statement also stressed the renovation plans were drawn up “according to the demands of the security agencies.”

The main focus of the renovation is to upgrade the security at the site. The home is also expected to get a major electric, plumbing and interior design overhaul.

The Prime Minister’s Office has not provided details on the expected cost of the renovations. Channel 13 reported Wednesday night that the price was estimated at NIS 35 million $11.1 million), but could rise.

The Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street, Jerusalem. (Yaakov Saar/GPO)

The planned renovations are an implicit acknowledgment of long-made complaints by Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, who argued that the home was in a state of deep disrepair.

The claims from the Netanyahus were widely seen as an attempt to discredit accusations that they were abusing and misusing public funds to finance a lavish lifestyle, including thousands of shekels a month on alcohol and ice cream. While others wondered what had happened to the hundreds of thousands of shekels budgeted to the upkeep of the compound.

In 2019, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing state funds in a plea deal in a case involving allegations of illegally procured catering services at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is currently on trial in three separate graft cases, including one where he and his wife are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of illicit gifts of cigars, jewelry and champagne from wealthy benefactors.

Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing.

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