How Much Are MKs Spending to 'Reach Out and Touch Someone'?

In terms of the budget item of maintaining contact with the public, Meretz whip Zehava Galon is the biggest spender among the 120 members of Israel's parliament, having spent NIS 97,829 last year, according to figures released by the Knesset earlier this month on MKs' expenses.

Galon, a contender for the Meretz party leadership, spent NIS 29,279 on a survey; NIS 4,363 on refreshments, and NIS 2,199 on a palm-held computer. In response, Galon said she used her budget in strict accordance with its defined goals.

David Tal (Kadima) ranked second in the list of spenders. Tal, who chairs the Knesset House Committee, spent NIS 81,760; including NIS 15,126 to learn a foreign language and NIS 34,948 in rent for a parliamentary office.

Third place belongs to Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners Party), with a total expenditure of NIS 79,536. This includes NIS 1,360 for a plane ticket he bought to conduct a field trip overseas and NIS 41,298 for secretarial services. Fourth on the list is Amnon Cohen (Shas), who spent NIS 78,690. Cohen, who submitted a proposal for a bill that would censor Internet services, himself spent NIS 5,799 on Internet usage and another NIS 16,000 for two computers.

Fifth on the list is Avraham Michaeli (Shas), who spent NIS 78,380, of which NIS 7,380 went on office renovations. He also installed a security system in his office for NIS 2,000 and bought a laptop and a palm-held computer for NIS 22,208.

Several MKs utilized the budget to learn a foreign language: The minister in charge of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, Ruhama Avraham Balila (Kadima) spent NIS 12,445; Michael Eitan (Likud) NIS 1,430, Housing and Construction Minister Ze'ev Boim (Kadima) NIS 2,585; Yoel Hasson (Kadima) NIS 4,185, Shas leader Eli Yishai NIS 15,000, and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik (Kadima) NIS 379.

MKs also purchased electrical appliances; for instance, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu bought a refrigerator for NIS 850.

The most frugal MK is Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Kadima) who did not spend even one agora of this budget, although, as a cabinet minister and prime minister, he is allocated NIS 25,000. The next most frugal political figure is President Shimon Peres, who served as a cabinet minister and an MK up to mid-2007. He spent only NIS 333.

Former MK and Balad leader Azmi Bishara, who left the country and resigned from the Knesset, managed to spend NIS 20,107 before his resignation.

Every MK is allotted an annual budget of NIS 68,000, which can include rent for a an office outside the Knesset. MKs who do not rent such an office are eligible to receive NIS 49,000 annually. However, MKs can also save unused funds from the previous year.