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Shin Bet said to demand security overhaul of Prime Minister’s Residence

Security agency reportedly warns home on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street doesn’t provide adequate protection for premier and his family

The Prime Minister's Residence on Balfour Street, Jerusalem. (Yaakov Saar/GPO)
The Prime Minister's Residence on Balfour Street, Jerusalem. (Yaakov Saar/GPO)

The Shin Bet is reportedly seeking to renovate the Prime Minister’s Residence, saying the security arrangements at the home on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street are inadequate for protecting a premier.

The security agency has been pushing for the repairs for some time but they require the residence’s occupants to clear out until they are completed, Channel 12 news reported Tuesday. Benjamin Netanyahu — who was replaced as premier last month by Naftali Bennett — and his family have been living at the residence since early 2009.

Netanyahu, now opposition leader, agreed with Bennett that he will vacate the Prime Minister’s Residence by July 10.

Quoting an unnamed source familiar with the matter, the network said the Shin Bet sent a detailed list of the necessary improvements to the head of security at the Prime Minister’s Office, maintaining that the residence did not meet the standards for having a prime minister stay there in an emergency.

With Netanyahu due to leave, the Shin Bet is now pushing to make the improvements, which the report said will cost NIS 10-15 million ($3-4.6 million).

While the repairs were set to begin soon, the Shin Bet and Prime Minister’s Office still must agree on dates and and whether the renovations will begin before Bennett formally moves in. A final decision will be made by Bennett.

Illustrative: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) signs the guest book at the Prime Minister’s Residence, with then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and his wife, Sara (R), Jerusalem, 23 January, 2020 (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)

Channel 12 reported over the weekend that Bennett will sleep at the Prime Minister’s Residence about four nights a week and plans to have the site fully functional. His family is planning to remain at home in the central town of Ra’anana, despite criticism over the significant cost in state funds required to secure it and complaints from neighbors.

The main reason behind the decision is to allow Bennett’s four children to continue in their current schools, the report said, adding that his wife Gilat Bennett’s office is also located in Ra’anana.

According to a Channel 13 report last week, Bennett’s decision to have his fanily remain in Ra’anana could cost some NIS 12-15 million ($3.6-4.6 million) in state funds. That one-time cost would go toward building security stations, roadblocks, cameras and other infrastructure necessary to protect the prime minister. Further costs are expected to go toward renting nearby apartments for security officials.

Ra’anana residents who live nearby have been irritated by the high security and ongoing protests against Bennett, which as of last month are limited by new police orders.

Bennett is set to serve as prime minister for the next two years, before being replaced by Yesh Atid leader Foreign Minister Yair Lapid under a rotation agreement.

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