Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a joint statement Saturday that the latter will depart from the official prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem by July 10 — in three weeks’ time.
The statement said that until that then, no official meetings will take place at the residence.
The announcement came six days after the former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley posted a picture with Netanyahu at the official residence, where he had hosted her along with Christians United For Israel founder John Hagee. The photo led to an uproar, with critics demanding to know why the opposition chairman was continuing to use the residence to entertain foreign dignitaries. Netanyahu has since also met with MKs Nir Barkat and Amichai Chikli at the residence for political discussions.
Bennett will begin using the official residence by July 11, the statement said — four weeks after he was sworn in as prime minister. The prime minister reportedly plans for his family to stay in their hometown of Ra’anana during the week, while he uses the official residence for meetings. They may join him in Jerusalem on weekends.
At the official residence, the Netanyahus are packing up and preparing to move to their private Caesarea residence, but this may take several weeks, sources involved in the matter said on Friday.
They said that the family will only spend a number of months in Caesarea, while an apartment they own on the capital’s Azza Street is brought up to security standards. Once ready, the Netanyahus will move in there. Netanyahu is also a part-owner of his late father’s home on Haportzim St. in the city, but apparently will not be moving into it with his family.
For the time being, Bennett is living in his family home in Ra’anana.
Bennett has four children — aged 16, 14, 12 and 9 — who all study in different schools near their current residence. His wife, Gilat Bennett, also works in the city.
Last week, PMO legal adviser Shlomit Barnea ruled that the state would stop paying for the official residence’s expenses as long as the Netanyahus remained there.
During his 12 consecutive years in office, Netanyahu lived in the official Jerusalem residence during the week with his wife and two children, while spending weekends in the family’s private Caesarea villa.
The residence of Israel’s prime minister, officially named Beit Aghion, is located on the corner of Smolenskin and Balfour streets in the upscale Rehavia neighborhood of central Jerusalem.
It was the site of weekly demonstrations for much of the past year, as thousands of activists gathered there regularly to demand Netanyahu step down over his trial for alleged corruption, as well as what they said were his assaults on the democratic system.