Work on converting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Ra’anana home into his official residence has run into tens of millions of shekels, with local residents complaining the rigid security measures are ruining their quality of life.
Arik Twill, who lives directly opposite Bennett’s home with his wife Limor and their five children, said that three months ago one of the contractors working at the site told him the project has already cost NIS 45 million ($13.8 million), Channel 12 news reported Friday.
Just the chemical toilets that have been set up for workers cost NIS 5,000 a week, he said, additionally claiming that staff were being put up in apartments that cost NIS 30,000 a month to rent.
Video from the location showed that arrangements have gone far beyond the establishment of a guard post outside the Bennett family home, with heavy construction machinery brought in to dig large holes for the foundations of additional security structures that will enable the home to operate fully as the prime minister’s official residence.
High metal barriers have been constructed, along with a large gate, and trailers have been brought in that are used by security personnel.
According to Channel 12, whereas previous prime ministers have had special security at their private homes, in Bennett’s case the work has been of a much greater scale to convert the site into an official prime minister’s residence, complete with a caretaker, security and staff.
Yet 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.
Twill said that at first neighbors thought the work would be finished within a few months.
“But it goes on and on and on,” he said, specifically citing a fume-producing generator.
Limor Twill said there are frequent disruptions to the internet service and that instructions over which end of the street they can use to drive in and out are constantly changing.
The metal security gate slams shut at all hours of the day and night, waking them up, she said. Driving in and out of the street takes “astronomical” amounts of time as they wait for the gate to be opened, she said.
“As a mother, what bothers me the most is that my children are afraid to go outside. Not to the playground, not to school,” Limor said, noting that her teenage children are questioned by security guards when they step outside.
“Under what authority do you bring that danger to me, in my home?” Twill asked.
Arik Twill noted that Bennett decided to live in Ra’anana at the request of his wife, who wanted their children to be able to continue their lives and schooling in the city.
“But what about my children,” he asked.
He suggested that as Bennett saw the scale of the measures needed to secure his home over the past several moths he should have halted the project and found another solution.
Read more: A neighborhood gone sour: In Ra’anana, still no solution for Bennett’s ‘Balfour’
Limor said the Bennett family could have moved to one of the smaller communities around Ra’anana where the impact would have been felt less.
Ohad Shalom, chair of the neighborhood committee, rejected Bennett’s past statement that he has spoken with residents about the situation.
“It is not correct,” he said. “He has not spoken with any of the neighbors.”
While Bennett remains in Ra’anana, work is also proceeding to refurbish and upgrade the official prime minister residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. Work there has already cost NIS 35 million, Channel 12 reported.
Bennett’s office said in a response that “until the refurbishment at the Balfour residence is completed the prime minister’s home in Ra’anana was declared the official residence,” and noted that the decision was approved by then-attorney general Avichai Mandeblit.
The office declined to provide any official figures on the cost so far and insisted that all of the work being done is security-related, Channel 12 said.