The Prime Minister’s Office reportedly approved repairs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pool at his home in Caesarea during the ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza, leading a top official to resign his post.
According to a Haaretz newspaper report published Tuesday, the decision to approve the renovations was made despite the objections of the Prime Minister’s Office’s chief accountant Roy Benbenisti.
A source at the Finance Ministry quoted by Haaretz said that the request for the repair work in question, which was submitted before the war, involved fixing the pool’s steps and some leaks.
A source in the PMO quoted in the report confirmed that the nature of the work was maintenance, and “not an upgrade.”
“These are only minor repairs and security-related maintenance tasks, which are carried out according to the law and the procedure for maintaining the residences of ministers and prime ministers, which will incur tenfold the financial damage on the state if left unattended,” the source was quoted as saying.
The incident was one in a series of clashes between the accountant and the PMO, according to the report, over spending on both the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and his Caesarea home.
In February 2023, the Knesset’s Finance Committee approved a request by Netanyahu to allocate state funding to cover housing costs at two private residences of the Netanyahu family — in Jerusalem and Caesarea — as the prime minister’s official residence undergoes extensive renovations and security updates.
The funding was approved after a stormy, two-day committee meeting bolstered by a strong show of support from Netanyahu’s Likud party members.
The question of renovations of the pool at the Caesarea residence was raised during Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial. During a 2022 hearing in the Jerusalem District Court, Hadas Klein, the personal assistant of Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and an aide to Australian billionaire James Packer, detailed how Sara Netanyahu had sought to have a pool at her family’s private home in Caesarea renovated at the state’s expense, a plan the premier ultimately stymied.
The report came amid a series of heated debates over widespread budget cuts, as the war with Hamas in Gaza — which began on October 7 when the terror group led a surprise cross-border onslaught, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 253 people hostage — is reportedly costing Israel at least NIS 1 billion ($269 million) a day.
The prime minister has often been criticized for what is perceived as excessive spending on a lavish lifestyle.
His wife Sara has also long faced allegations of extravagant living, and state comptroller reports have found she repeatedly tried to get funding for the couple’s private residence, including one instance when she purchased furniture, apparently for the official residence in Jerusalem, and then moved it to the Netanyahus’ private residence in Caesarea, while older furniture was taken from Caesarea to the residence in Jerusalem.