PM’s water bills sky high, report finds

Netanyahu’s taxpayer-funded expenditure on his three residences almost $1 million in 2012 — more than double predecessor’s spending; PM: Overall costs down 16% in 2013

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tours the Dead Sea in 2011. (Photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tours the Dead Sea in 2011. (Photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

The water bill for Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s upscale Caesarea house amounted to some NIS 72,000 (about $20,435) in 2012, and the cost of gardening services reached NIS 22,000 ($6,245), according to a report published by a government watchdog group on Sunday. The Caesarea home includes a swimming pool, which may account for the part of the high water costs.

But water apparently wasn’t Netanyahu’s only liquid of choice. According to the report, released in response to a court petition by the Movement for Freedom of Information, the Prime Minister’s Residence spent NIS 15,000 ($4,257) on wine during the same time period as well.

The prime minister’s official residence also spent NIS 6,000 ($1,700) on scented candles and NIS 9,500 ($2,696) on mezuzot,  the report continued.

The overall spending funded by the taxpayer in Netanyahu’s three homes, which include his official residence and a private residence in Jerusalem as well as his house in Caesarea, amounted to NIS 3,291,263 ($934,221), the report said — more than double the amount spent by former prime minster Ehud Olmert in 2008.

Following the publication of the report, Alona Winograd, director of the Movement for Freedom of Information, said her organization had filed the petition in order to deter public officials from abusing their powers.

“Only a high standard of reporting will ensure the prevention of cases of corruption and mismanagement,” Winograd said in a statement to Israel Radio.

“This is our expectation from our elected officials, and we hope we will not need similar freedom of information requests in the future to fulfill these goals.”

The Prime Minister’s Office, in a statement in response to the report, stressed that the Prime Minister’s Residence is “used throughout the year to host heads of state, numerous consultations and large meetings.” It added that some of the expenditures included the cost of guards who protect Netanyahu’s homes throughout the year, as well as expenses rolled over from previous years.

Overall, the PMO said, Netanyahu’s expenses are down 16% in 2013 compared to 2012.

Netanyahu’s openhanded spending habits garnered criticism earlier this year. In February 2013, the prime minister received a NIS 10,000 ($2,700) budget supplement from the government for buying high-end ice cream for his official residence from a late-night shop down the street.

The Prime Minister’s Residence had already spent NIS 3,000 on ice cream by May of last year, and therefore filed a special request for budgeting thousands of shekels more for ice cream from a nearby shop that Netanyahu especially liked, the financial newspaper Calcalist reported.

The request was exempt from the ordinary filing of tenders for provisioning the residence with food and other supplies.

Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report

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