Netanyahu said seeking to shift NIS 600,000 tax bill to state

PM’s office claims Tax Authority demanding ‘unprecedented’ payment for expenses at his private residence; TV report says Gantz’s new security detail to cost NIS 23 million a year

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset on May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset on May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to have hundreds of thousands of shekels in taxes he owes for work on his private residence be picked up by the state, Israeli television reported Wednesday.

The roughly NIS 600,000 ($172,591) Netanyahu owes the Tax Authority covers the period between 2013 and 2018 and includes bills for gardening, water, electricity, services and more at his home in Caesaria, Channel 13 news said.

The tax bill is from before the 2018 passage of a law championed by Netanyahu’s Likud party absolving him of future taxes on his private homes.

The law gave Netanyahu, one of the wealthiest lawmakers in the Knesset, an effective raise of NIS 200,000 per year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea. (Screen capture: Channel 10)

According to the report, the Tax Authority is still seeking the money Netanyahu owes before the law was passed, but the premier’s office is exploring various legal loopholes to have the taxpayers pick up the bill.

Responding to the report, his office claimed the Tax Authority has never sought payments from prime ministers for such expenses since Israel’s founding in 1948.

“Unprecedentedly, the Tax Authority decided to demand a retroactive tax payment from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even though there was never a demand like this on any past prime minister,” it said in a statement.

Also Wednesday, Hebrew media reports said Defense Minister Benny Gantz was set to get a security motorcade similar to that of Netanyahu, due to his new role as alternate prime minister.

The new security arrangements will come at a cost of NIS 23 million ($6.6 million) per year, according to Channel 12 news.

As no money was set aside for the motorcade in the current state budget, funding for it will have to come from cuts elsewhere, the network said.

Gantz’s office denied he was interested nor asked for such security arrangements. However, the report said the motorcade came with his title of alternate prime minister, which necessitates security treatment by the Shin Bet similar to that of the prime minister, and may not be entirely up to him.

The report prompted strong criticism from a lawmaker in the Yesh Atid party, which broke with Gantz over his decision to join a government with Netanyahu.

“While one million unemployed people don’t know how they’ll make ends meet and small businesses are collapsing everywhere, Gantz is occupied with himself from morning to night,” MK Mickey Levy said, referring to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Gantz said Tuesday that any suggestion he requested the security arrangements or luxury vehicles was a “blatant lie,” after the Globes business daily reported he would receive two Audi A8s as part of his motorcade.

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