Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch sought to have a private shower installed as a new office was built for him in the Health Ministry, the Globes financial daily reported Thursday.
Kisch, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, later admitted that he had looked into having a bathroom added during the renovation but dropped the idea when he was told there was no authorization to do so.
With 34 ministers and eight deputy ministers, the unity government is the most minister-rich in the country’s history. It has faced criticism for increasing expenditure with its broad cabinet at a time when the country is in a financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Work is set to start on creating an office for Kisch at the Health Ministry building in Jerusalem, which currently only has a dedicated office for Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.
In order to make space for Kisch and his personal staff in the already-full building, a manager and other workers were moved out of their offices and relocated elsewhere, the report said. Several existing offices are to be knocked together to create the office for Kisch, who asked that a bathroom and a personal shower be put in as well, Globes reported.
Kisch later tweeted a response to the Globes article, saying there is no office available for him and that therefore “existing office space at the ministry building is being adapted for me and my team.”
Regarding the bathroom, Kisch said, “I asked to check the possibility of adding them as there is for every Knesset member in parliament. When it became clear that there is no approval from the housing administration, the story ended. Two week ago.”
Kisch did not specify if he had also asked for a shower to be installed.
“The planned renovation of the designated office includes necessary adjustments for the number of staff and nature of the work and is being done entirely according to established government communication by the Deputy Minister’s Office,” a statement on Kisch’s behalf said.
“The possibility of [installing] a bathroom and conference room in the office was examined,” the statement continued. “In reviewing the Civil Service By-Laws, it became clear that there was no permit for a bathroom or conference room, so no bathroom (or shower) or conference room is planned for the the deputy minister’s office.”
As a member of Knesset, Kisch already has an office with a personal shower at the Knesset building, the report noted. Showers are provided for lawmakers who sometimes are required to stay at the Knesset for late night votes. In addition, the Knesset will pay for a lawmaker who lives out of town to stay in a Jerusalem hotel if necessary, the report said.
The Health Ministry said in a statement that Kisch’s office is being set up on the 11th floor of the building and that the work, which will start in the coming days, is expected to take about a month and a half.
“The complex does not include toilets or a shower,” the ministry statement said.
Last week, a senior lawmaker in Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party apologized for having downplayed the economic impact of the virus outbreak when he said it was “bullshit” that some Israelis who have lost their jobs during the pandemic can’t afford food.
Minister without portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi made the comment during an interview on the popular Channel 12 talk show “Ofira and Berkovic,” as he was pressed on Netanyahu’s response to the economic fallout accompanying the government restrictions put in place to contain the virus. “This nonsense that people have nothing to eat is bullshit. Bullshit,” Hanegbi said. “There are a million people who, most of them, until now, have received unemployment payments… There are businesses that were hurt and they’re in serious distress. [But] saying ‘there’s nothing to eat’ is populism.”
In June the government faced criticism after the Knesset Finance Committee approved granting Netanyahu retroactive tax benefits worth hundreds of thousands of shekels as stipulated in a clause of the coalition agreement.
The coalition also passed a so-called Norwegian Law that allowed ministers to resign from the Knesset in order to make way for other party members to become MKs in their place, an arrangement that also increases government expenditure by increasing the number of wages and accompanying benefits paid out.