The State Comptroller announced on Saturday that he will soon release a report on the seemingly excessive expenditures at the prime minister’s residences, after Haaretz reported that its publication has been held up for weeks. A statement issued by the comptroller's office contained no denial of allegations that they were requested to hold back on publishing the report until after the elections by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyer, David Shimron.
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The report deals with allegedly unjustified use of taxpayers' money on services and products. This includes hundreds of thousands of shekels on restaurants, tens of thousands of shekels on flower arrangements, thousands of shekels on scented candles, and significant sums on footwear and hair-care. In addition, the report addresses and reviews the public funds spent on the Netanyahus' private residences in Ceasaria and Jerusalem.
According to a statement issued by the State Comptroller on Friday, a near complete version of the report was sent to the attorney general back in August 2014.
"Regarding the allegation that the comptroller acquiesced a request by Shimron to delay the publication of the report, we wish to stress that no such promise was made. The State Comtroller's office is preparing to release the report."
Haaretz recently reported that Shimron asked the comptroller not to publish the report until after the March 17 elections. A source familiar with the report said publishing it before Election Day could damage Netanyahu’s image.
Meanwhile, on Saturday evening, Likud's representative Nir Hefetz confirmed that the Netanyahu family returned 4,000 shekels (about 1,000$) to the state's coffers, following a Haaretz exclusive report that exposed that Netanyahu's wife Sara kept thousands of shekels from deposits on empty bottles that were returned, on her orders, to supermarkets in Jerusalem over the course of several years.
In an interview with Channel 2, Hefetz avoided answering his interviewer directly and instead said: "I'm not an expert on all the technicalities of how things worked. I think most citizens watching us are tired with the onslaught on Mrs. Netanyahu."
When asked why the PM's Residence purchased 150,000 shekels worth of alcohol over a period of 19 months during Netanyahu's previous term, Hefetz answered that "these numbers are a complete fabrication. Tomorrow the PM's Office will release the real data. First of all, the PM's Residence doesn't buy any liquor. Regarding wine – about one bottle was bought every day, which was meant for guests."
Hefetz added that the story is "driven by the left and by elements in the media, whose interest is not to deal with who is guarding our children, who is watching the northern border and stops Iran from going nuclear. The important issues are not been dealt with."
In answer to the question how the sum that was eventually returned to the state was calculated, Hefetz said that "the answer for the calculation of the 4,000 shekels will be revealed a lot sooner than the answer regarding the funding sources of leftist groups."
On Saturday morning, Netanyahu's political rivals attacked the prime minister for the alleged embezzlement and excessive expenditure at his residence. Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On called on the attorney general to launch an immediate investigation against Netanyahu on suspicion of embezzlement. "If there's any truth to the allegations, Netanyahu must remove his candidacy and go home," Gal-On said, adding that Netanyahu is hiding behind his wife's back instead of taking public responsibility for his actions.
Zionist Camp co-chair Tzipi Livni slammed Netanyahu, saying that his monthly alcohol budget amounts to the monthly salary of one million Israelis.
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."