The Movement for a Quality Government in Israel filed a High Court of Justice petition on Monday calling on it to order Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to move to the official residence in Jerusalem, in order to end the ongoing expenses at his private home in Ra’anana which currently functions, albeit informally, as his official residence.
The current arrangement has required major upheaval in the surrounding area in order to provide the security and infrastructure the prime minister needs to work from his family’s home. Security upgrades have reportedly cost NIS 50 million ($15 million) on top of other monthly expenses running into tens of thousands of shekels.
“Today we filed a petition with the High Court requesting to know why the prime minister is not moving to the official residence in Balfour, as Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the lobby group said in a statement referring to Balfour Street, the address of the official residence.
It noted that, by law, Jerusalem is supposed to be the seat of all government leaders. The petition also asked for the timetable of Bennett’s eventual relocation to Jerusalem and to be informed why the attorney general has not already ordered him to make the move.
“The prime minister of Israel needs to live in the capital of Israel,” the movement said.
The petition was filed against Bennett, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Shin Bet security service that provides protection for the prime minister, and the attorney general.
The organization called for the court to hold an “urgent hearing” on the matter and cited media reports that the state is paying out nearly NIS 70,000 a month to rent nearby housing for support staff for the prime minister.
At the same time, six apartments around the official residence in the capital that are being rented for the same purpose are empty, the statement said.
The movement said it has in the past asked the Prime Minister’s Office — which is located at a separate Jerusalem location — to provide it with a timetable of when Bennett will move to the Jerusalem home, but has received no response.
In a contentious decision, Bennett has continued to live exclusively in his private home in Ra’anana, rather than moving to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood. Bennett initially defended this move as being for the benefit of his children who were able to continue attending school in Ra’anana, rather than being uprooted to a new city.
He has continued to justify the move as being necessary in order to allow the Shin Bet security service to make renovations to the Jerusalem residence. The Shin Bet confirmed this last month, saying it was necessary to make long-needed improvements to the Jerusalem residence’s security systems.
In August 2023, less than 18 months from now, Bennett is scheduled to rotate the premiership with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid under their coalition agreement.
Bennett’s decision to remain in Ra’anana has also drawn the ire of his neighbors in the quiet Ra’anana suburb, who found themselves living on a tightly guarded street where boisterous protests suddenly became a regular occurrence.