July 25, 2021

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clings to his official residence

LETTER FROM JERUSALEM

He dragged on, but Benjamin Netanyahu finally pledged to leave the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem on July 10. On this date, it will be nearly a month since the alternating government which ended its twelve-year reign will have come to power.

Mr. Netanyahu is relying on the patience of his successor, Naftali Bennett. As soon as he took office, on June 13, he chose to give time to his former model in politics, as well as to his wife Sara and his son Yaïr, to leave the complex located on rue Balfour, in a neighborhood plush in town. The next day, Mr. Netanyahu shocked by receiving at the residence two American visitors: the evangelical pastor John Hagee and the former United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

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Tipped as a possible Republican candidate for the US presidential election in 2024, Mr.me Haley greeted in a tweet “Prime Minister Netanyahu” and his contribution “Historical” to Israel’s security and prosperity, suggesting that “We haven’t finished hearing about him”.

Corruption and food costs

Mr. Bennett was careful not to criticize this interview, and what appeared to be a wish to see Mr. Netanyahu quickly return to business. But in the joint statement released on June 19 by the two men setting a date for the transfer of occupation of the residence, Mr. Netanyahu pledged to no longer receive official visits there. For his part, Mr. Bennett wants to stay with his wife and their four children at their home in Raanana, a posh suburb of Tel Aviv. He will only use the official residence during his stays in Jerusalem, and to welcome foreign dignitaries.

Hairdressing, furniture, fresh food… Critics of “King Bibi” have long accused the Netanyahu couple of treating state property as their private property. In December 2019, Sara Netanyahu reached a guilty plea agreement. The judges concluded that she had misused public funds, spending in particular nearly 85,000 euros between 2011 and 2013 to have meals delivered to the residence, which has a chef. Several employees also accused her of ill-treatment: a cleaning lady received 35,000 euros in damages in 2016, and another member of staff lodged a complaint in 2020.

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