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Defying Health Ministry recommendation, Netanyahus said set to vacation abroad

Opposition chair, wife planning to spend two weeks in US, even as COVID cases continue to spike and country inches toward lockdown; they’ll have to isolate for a week upon return

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara board the plane to Washington, DC, late on September 13, 2020, to sign normalization agreements at a White House ceremony with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara board the plane to Washington, DC, late on September 13, 2020, to sign normalization agreements at a White House ceremony with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

Opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are planning to fly abroad for a two-week vacation in the US, despite the Health Ministry’s recommendations that Israelis avoid leaving the country due to climbing COVID-19 cases, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

In addition to the Health Ministry, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also called on Israelis at a press conference last month to cease traveling abroad in order to prevent the import of new coronavirus variants upon their return.

In the weeks that followed, the spread of the pandemic in Israel intensified, and a fourth lockdown appears to now be in the cards.

Netanyahu’s office declined Kan’s request for comment on the matter.

According to new Health Ministry guidelines, the Netanyahus will be required to quarantine for a week upon their return from the US.

The report came just two days after Kan revealed that Netanyahu asked for the state to pay tens of thousands of shekels to fix the broken air conditioning system in his private home in Caesarea, shortly before he left office as prime minister, but was refused.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid disembarks in Rabat, Morocco, on August 11, 2021. (Lazar Berman)

According to the report, days before he was ousted as prime minister in June, Netanyahu asked officials in the Prime Minister’s Office to pay NIS 70,000-120,000 (approximately $21,000-37,000) in order to replace the chiller in the central air conditioning system in his Caesarea home.

“The Netanyahu family paid to fix the air conditioning in Caesarea from its own private funds,” said a statement from the current opposition leader in response to the report.

The family has in the past been accused of misusing of public funds, but has always denied the accusations.

The Kan report also revealed that Netanyahu stayed recently in the presidential suite at the Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa for a fraction of the listed price.

The public broadcaster stated that the suite should have cost NIS 9,000 per night, but the Netanyahu family paid NIS 2,000.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea. (Video screenshot)

The opposition leader’s statement noted that “the former prime minister did not know there was a difference in the price between the room he reserved and what he received. When he was informed, he immediately ordered that the difference be paid.”

It was unclear who Netanyahu needed to direct to pay that difference.

Netanyahu ended his tenure as prime minister on June 13, when he was replaced by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

He and his family moved out of the official prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem in the early hours of July 11, close to one month later. Since then, Kan reports, the family has largely been staying in hotels, in part due to the broken air conditioning system in Caesarea as well as Netanyahu’s late nights working in the Knesset. An apartment the family owns in Jerusalem is apparently being brought up to the necessary security standards for the family to live there.

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