State funding of PM's residence dropped by 50% under Bennett, Lapid

The Likud claimed that the new data ignores an alleged NIS 50 million spent on renovations on Bennett's home.

 PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid with Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a cabinet meeting in September. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid with Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a cabinet meeting in September.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The amount spent by the State of Israel on the Prime Minister's Residence under then-prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid was less than half of the amount that had been spent the previous year, acording to data released by the Prime Minister's Office on Sunday.

The data was released in response to a request by The Movement for Freedom of Information.

In 2021, during which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu served as prime minister until he was succeeded by Bennett on July 10, about NIS 1,430,000 was spent by the state on the Prime Minister's Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, and another NIS 239,723 was spent by the state on Netanyahu's private residence in Caesarea.

Meanwhile, while Bennett was prime minister, NIS 245,734 was spent on his private residence in Ra'anana.

Both Bennett and Lapid were unable to live in the official Prime Minister's Residence at Balfour during their terms as premier as extensive engineering work was being conducted at the site due to safety and maintenance concerns. Bennett remained in his home in Ra'anana, while Lapid moved into an apartment next to Balfour referred to as "Balfour 2" once he took over as prime minister.

In 2022, the state spent about NIS 471,000 on Bennett's residence in Ra'anana and about NIS 271,000 for Balfour 2 and the official residence at Balfour which remained uninhabited, meaning altogether NIS 743,000 was spent on the prime minister's residences in 2022.

Street sign for the road on which the prime minister's residence lies. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Street sign for the road on which the prime minister's residence lies. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Security measures at Ra'anana residence cost the state about NIS 15 million

The data released by the Prime Minister's Office did not include security costs for any of the residences. Reports from last year and from 2021, including an interview with Bennett himself, placed the costs of security measures at the Ra'anana residence at about NIS 14-15 million.

Bennett responded to the report on Sunday, stating "Since for a year and a half lies and distortions were told on a massive scale regarding my household expenses during my service as prime minister, I bring this to your attention:The Prime Minister's Office report published this morning officially states: the expenses during my time as Prime Minister were cut by more than 50% compared to previous years."

"There was no renovation for NIS 50 million, but only works for NIS 70,000 to adapt the shelter to be a secure office for me as prime minister. Everything else - security only, in light of the Shin Bet's demand that I not enter the residence in Balfour. All the noise, all the lies were debunked - one big fake."

Likud claims data 'distorts reality,' ignores alleged NIS 50 million renovations

While the financial data shared by the Movement for Freedom of Information about the apartments came from the Prime Minister's Office, the Likud Party insisted that the movement was "distorting reality" by ignoring what it claimed were NIS 50 million spent by the state on renovations on Bennett's home in Ra'anana.

The Likud Party added that the alleged NIS 50 million was spent by the state due to "[Bennett's] turning his private home in Ra'anana into an official residence," adding "Unlike during Bennett's time, during Netanyahu's time in Balfour the residence functioned as a fully official residence hosting world leaders, statesmen and Israeli public figures."

The claim of NIS 50 million being spent on the Ra'anana residence was first reported by Channel 13's Ayala Hasson after a neighbor of Bennett's claimed that workers at the site had told him that over NIS 45 million had been spent on renovations, according to an investigation from KAN's "From the Other Side" program.

In April, Hasson, who had since begun working for KAN, reported that she had collected documents proving her claim, including a document placing the cost of security measures around the Ra'anana home at NIS 12 million and the cost of work on and around the house, including office equipment, at about NIS 886,000, adding up to the about NIS 14 million reported two years ago.

Altogether, according to a summary of costs read out by Hasson, over NIS 16 million of the NIS 46 million cost she reported consisted of wages for security guards, another NIS 700,000 was used for "renting apartments in Ra'anana," another NIS 9.4 million was used for "special, etc." and another NIS 5.3 million was used for overhead and operational costs for the Prime Minister's Office.

In total, despite Hasson's earlier claim and the Likud party's repeated claim that NIS 50 million was spent on "renovations" on Bennett's private home, Hasson's report in April found that at least NIS 31 million of the total was unrelated to renovations or work on the Ra'anana residence.

Hasson's report was not verified by a government agency. In her earlier reports while at Channel 13, Hasson had stated that she had built up the estimate by talking to contractors and "witnesses" who she could not reveal.

Since taking office again at the beginning of 2022, Netanyahu has not lived in the Balfour residence, instead residing in an apartment on Aza Street and at his private residence in Caesarea.

In February, the government approved additional state funding for Netanyahu's two private residences in Jerusalem and Caesarea, as the official residence remains uninhabitable, and raising the clothing fund for Netanyahu and his wife from NIS 56,000 to NIS 80,000.