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State may end funding for Netanyahus at official residence from Sunday

But no date set for departure of Likud leader and family from Jerusalem home; PM-designate Bennett not planning on moving in

View of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on June 23, 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
View of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on June 23, 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

A legal adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office has recommended that the state immediately stop covering the utilities costs for Benjamin Netanyahu and his family at the official Prime Minister’s Residence from Sunday, when a new government is expected to be sworn in, according to Hebrew media reports on Saturday.

At the same time, no date has yet been set for the Netanyahus to leave the official Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, the reports said. Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett is not planning on fully relocating to the official residence due to his children’s schooling arrangements.

The legal opinion by Shlomit Barnea-Pargo — which requires the approval of the Justice Ministry to be binding — suggests that, effective Sunday, the Israeli government stop funding the residence expenses and all chefs and cleaners be immediately fired. The state should also end its funding of cleaning and utilities for the Netanyahus’ private Caesarea residence, which it also currently covers, she wrote.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara address their supporters on the night of the Israeli elections, at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

According to Channel 12, transition teams representing Netanyahu and Bennett are meant to iron out the details, but have yet to establish contact.

During his 12 consecutive years in office, Netanyahu lived in the official Jerusalem residence during the week with his wife and two children, while spending weekends in the family’s private Caesarea villa.

Bennett, meanwhile, plans for his family to stay in their hometown of Ra’anana during the week while he uses the official residence for meetings, and on weekends they may join him in Jerusalem, according to Channel 12.

Bennett has four children — aged 16, 14, 12 and 9 — who all study in different schools near their current residence in the central city of Ra’anana. His wife, Gilat Bennett, also works in the city.

Yamina leader and Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett speaks at the Knesset, June 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The residence of Israel’s prime minister, officially named Beit Aghion, is located on the corner of Smolenskin and Balfour Street in the upscale Rehavia neighborhood of central Jerusalem.

Sunday will see the Knesset vote on establishing the 36th government of Israel, an eight-party coalition that will see Bennett of the Yamina party rotate the premiership with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Netanyahu — Israel’s longest-serving premier, having held the position for 15 years overall — has said he’s committed to a peaceful transition of power.

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