The taxpayer's bill for tourism minister's jaunts? NIS 204,972
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov has been making headlines over allegations of embarrassingly inappropriate behavior during his working trips abroad, but just how much have taxpayers been paying for the honor?
Since taking the post 10 months ago, the tourism minister went abroad five times, spending 37 days outside Israel. These trips cost a total of NIS 204,972.
The figure includes the travel costs for the minister's aides, who accompanied him on every trip. It does not include the expense of his security detail, or of ministry employees who joined some of the trips.
During his most recent excursion, to Spain, Misezhnikov allegedly canceled some working meetings, came late to others and bar-hopped until the wee hours. In Belarus, Misezhnikov allegedly arrived on Friday, finished his working meetings that afternoon, and then stayed until Sunday night - at the taxpayer's expense.
Sources at the Knesset denounced the publications and said that the most the minister had ever paid for a hotel was NIS 1,649 a night in Madrid, as opposed to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who spent NIS 20,000 a night on a Paris hotel.
His office responded: "Since entering office, the tourism minister has indicated to his staff that his trips abroad would be professional, focused and economical, and this is how things have been conducted. During his trips, he is accompanied by ministry professionals as needed and a minimal number of advisers, in keeping with government approval. In the wake of his trips, the minister signed tourism agreements with Belarus, Brazil and Portugal, new airline routes were introduced and cooperation agreements were reached with tourism officials in every country the minister visited - which are expected to increase tourism to Israel.
"The minister's expenses abroad could be used to teach responsible, considered public and personal management," the office said, adding that the minister compares flight and hotel costs before booking the cheapest option.