Olmert Gets NIS 3.5m for Security in PMO Budget

The Knesset Finance Committee yesterday agreed to increase the budget of the Prime Minister's Office by NIS 214 million. Of that amount, NIS 3.5 million will be spent on beefing up security for former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

The extra budget for the Prime Minister's Office isn't being added on top of the state budget for 2009, which means other budgets will have to be cut to accommodate the costs.

The amount includes a budget of NIS 147 million for ministers without portfolio, deputy ministers, and for the establishment of the Regional Cooperation Ministry.

The budget for ministers' security was increased by NIS 12 million, to NIS 87.6 million a year. That decision aroused some criticism in the Finance Committee.

The committee's chairman, Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, said he'd gone to synagogue with a minister accompanied by a bodyguard - but the worshippers had assumed the bodyguard was for Gafni. They hadn't even recognized the minister, so couldn't imagine him to be a personality requiring protection, Gafni explained. In short, he summed up, perhaps the treasury should rethink the need: "Some of that money is pure waste," he said.

NIS 50 million was earmarked for the establishment of the Regional Cooperation Ministry.

Yuli Edelstein, minister of public affairs and the Diaspora, received another NIS 31 million, bringing his ministry's budget for the year to NIS 100 million.

Moshe Ya'alon, in charge of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, received NIS 8.1 million.