How much money do Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu spend annually on food from the supermarket? I’m not sure they even know. After all, it was the housekeeping staff in the Prime Minister’s Residence who did the shopping for them for at least the last five years.
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But a new document published with tender exemptions on the website of the Government Procurement Administration provides the answer. According to the document, known as the protocol of the prime minister’s internal tenders committee, the prime minister's official budget for groceries between June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015 will be 160,000 shekels (about $46,000).
The tenders committee convened on March 9 for a discussion entitled “Contacts with supermarkets for the purpose of purchasing food products for the Prime Minister’s Office and Residence.” On the agenda was a request to approve a budget of 300,000 shekels a year for the purchase of food items in several supermarket chains in the Jerusalem area.
Of this sum, 160,000 shekels a year, or slightly over 13,000 shekels a month, were earmarked for the purchase of food for the prime minister’s official dwelling only. The remaining 140,000 shekels were designated for purchasing food for government meetings, cabinet sessions and dozens of additional meetings that take place daily at the his office.
Six supermarket chains were picked by the PMO - Supersol, Mega, Rami Levy, the Co-Op, Osher Ad and Zol Begadol. From each chain items totaling up to 50,000 shekels a year will be purchased with pre-charged cards. Two months have passed, and a few days ago, on May 18, the bureau’s exemptions committee headed by the director of the PMO approved the decision and the budget.
Statistics from the Central Bureau of Statistics for 2012 indicate that the average family in Israel, with 3.2 people, spends 27,500 shekels a year, or 2,298 shekels a month, on food. A Jerusalem family with an average of four people spends about 28,600 shekels a year on food, or 2,387 a month.
The 160,000 shekels for supermarket purchases are only part of the food expenditures of the Prime Minister’s Residence. To that we have to add catering services for official meals, ordering food from restaurants and the purchase of specific types of food, like the famous pistachio ice cream for which about 10,000 shekels a year were allocated. All these are paid for from an entirely different budget.
A few months ago, after a petition by the Movement for Freedom of Information, findings were published that revealed that expenditures on food in the Prime Minister’s Residence in 2012 totaled 480,000 shekels. The figures for 2013 have already been published by Netanyahu’s bureau, on its own initiative. These figures showed a decrease in the residence's expenditures. Spending on food in 2013 totaled 246,000 shekels.
The PMO told me in response that the sum of 160,000 shekels a year for purchasing food for the Prime Minister’s Residence was approved in accordance with all set procedure.
“The Prime Minister’s Residence serves as an office for all intents and purposes, including meetings with large numbers of participants and hosting various world leaders,” said the PMO. “Last year saw a decline of 24 percent in the expenditures of the Prime Minister’s Residence.”