Livni: Netanyahu Spends More on Alcohol Than Some Israelis Earn per Month

Zionist Camp co-chair slams PM for allegedly spending 100,000 shekels over two years on alcohol. Likud politician in response: It's a campaign of personal incitement.

Emil Salman

Zionist Camp co-chair Tzipi Livni slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday for the alleged excessive expenditures at the Prime Minister's Residence, saying that Netanyahu's monthly alcohol budget amounts to the monthly salary of one million Israelis.

"This week it was published that Netanyahu spent 100,000 shekels of public funds over two years on alcohol. Do you know how much that is in a month? 4,200 a month," Livni said.

Livni, who was speaking at a public event in the central Israeli city of Rishon Letzion, was referring to recent Israeli media reports that the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem spent some 100,000 shekels ($25,450) on alcohol, mostly wine, over two years.

"The price of the alcohol Netanyahu drinks in a month is like the monthly salary of nearly one million workers in Israel, but they use it for rent, city tax, water, electricity, education, and food," Livni said.

Livni's co-chair and Labor leader Isaac Herzog also attacked the prime minister, saying Netanyahu is "busy with accusations, throwing the responsibility on former prime ministers and on the Israeli media, hiding behind incessant scare tactics and stories about empty bottles."

In mentioning bottles Herzog was referring to reports that Netanyahu's wife, Sara, kept thousands of shekels from deposits on empty glass bottles that were returned, on her orders, to supermarkets in Jerusalem over the course of several years. This was despite the fact that the bottle deposits were state property.

"But we mustn't forget – he's been the prime minister for the last six years, and the responsibility for the housing crisis, the hungry children and Israel's serious condition internationally is at his doorstep," Herzog said.

Leader of the leftist party Meretz, Zahava Gal-On, also commented on the bottle deposit affair, and called on the Attorney General to investigate the prime minister on suspicion of embezzlement. "If there's any truth to the allegations against Netanyahu he must bow out of the elections and go home," Gal-On said, adding that Netanyahu is hiding behind his wife instead of taking responsibility for his actions.

A deputy minister from the Likud party, MK Ofir Akunis, said in response to Saturday's charges that Livni and her Zionist Camp co-chair, Isaac Herzog, are leading a "campaign of personal incitement against Prime Minister Netanyahu, at the price of hurting Israel's national interests."

Akunis accused the two of political corruption and immorality, and of hiding their support for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, relinquishing East Jerusalem, and establishing "Hamastan" in the West Bank.

According to Akunis, Livni and Herzog, with no economic or social achievement to their name, have no other recourse but to attack Netanyahu personally.

On Friday, Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to the "Bottlegate" reports on his Facebook page, lashing out at the media for rehashing an "old, overblown, recycled story," referring to the bottle deposit affair.

"How did a marginal event from years ago turn into huge, negative headlines precisely on election eve? The answer is simple. There are powerful forces in the Israeli press that believe in recycling, not bottles but rather an illegitimate way of biting back at me through trendy and twisted mudslinging against my wife with the goal of upending the Likud under my leadership from power," Netanyahu said.

A history of lavish spending

This is not the first time Netanyahu has been criticized for alleged excessive spending of public funds for personal needs. About two years ago, it was revealed that Netanyahu's official residence had a contract worth 10,000 shekels in state-funds for ice cream. Following public criticism, Netanyahu canceled the contract.

About a year ago, it was also revealed that taxpayers dished out NIS 3.3 million ($940,000) in 2012 to maintain Netanyahu’s three residences - NIS 1.2 million above budget. Netanyahu has his official residence in Jerusalem, a private home in Caesarea and another private home on Gaza Street in Jerusalem. The state spent NIS 2.97 million to maintain the official residence in Jerusalem, NIS 312,700 for the Caesarea home and NIS 4,561 for the Gaza Street home.

The Netanyahus used state funding for amenities such as flowers, catering, cleaning, maintenance, exterminating, fuel and kitchen utensils. The family also hired an architect for sealing and insulation.

Haaretz reported on Friday that State Comptroller Joseph Shapira has been holding up a report on seemingly excessive expenditures at the prime minister’s residences for weeks now, after Netanyahu’s lawyer asked him not to publish it before the March election. A source familiar with the report said its publication before Election Day could damage Netanyahu’s image.