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Trump's UN envoy: We have not heard the last from Netanyahu

Though no longer premier, Netanyahu hosts Nikki Haley at official residence

Former US envoy to the United Nations posts photo of herself with opposition leader, calling him ‘prime minister,’ also meets Foreign Minister Lapid

File: US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley meets then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
File: US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley meets then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hosted former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Christians United for Israel founder John Hagee on Monday at the official Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, despite no longer being prime minister.

A legal adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office has already recommended that the state stop covering Netanyahu and his family’s utility costs at the residence. Netanyahu was replaced Sunday as prime minister by Naftali Bennett.

Haley, who was appointed envoy to the UN by former US president Donald Trump, later tweeted a photo from the meeting inside the residence, and referred to Netanyahu as “prime minister.”

“Time with Prime Minister @netanyahu is always invaluable. His contributions to Israeli security and prosperity are historic. We have not heard the last from him,” wrote Haley, who is often mentioned as a possible 2024 Republican presidential contender.

Earlier in the day Haley and Hagee, who are both visiting from the US, met with newly installed Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Lapid thanked the visitors for their “unwavering support for the State of Israel.”

“The relationship between our countries is based on a deep bond and vital shared interests,” he tweeted.

During a handover ceremony earlier at the Foreign Ministry when he took up his new post, Lapid vowed to continue engagement with Israel’s evangelical supporters, while doubling down on efforts to reach out to Diaspora Jewry. The strategy veers away from that taken by Netanyahu and his ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, who suggested investing greater efforts in the former group.

Lapid has also pledged to improve relations with US Democrats, which underwent blips during the Netanyahu era.

Netanyahu will not leave the official residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street for several more weeks at least, Channel 12 reported Monday.

In any event, Bennett’s family plans to remain in their private home in the central city of Ra’anana for the time being. He is not planning on fully relocating to the official residence due to his children’s schooling arrangements.

On Saturday, the day before the new government was confirmed by the Knesset, Hebrew media reported that Shlomit Barnea-Pargo, a legal adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office, had recommended that the state stop paying the utility bills as long as the Netanyahus remain at the residence.

The legal opinion by Barnea-Pargo — which requires the approval of the Justice Ministry to be binding — suggested that, effective Sunday, the 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.

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 Caesarea home.

Bennett 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 home in Ra’anana. His wife, Gilat Bennett, also works in the city.

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