The electrician who stars in the state comptroller's report published Tuesday is Avi Fahima of Or Akiva, a former member of the Likud party’s central committee who has been friendly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for years.
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Fahima has done work at the Netanyahu family’s private home in Caesarea many times over the years, including during periods when Netanyahu served as finance minister, as an ordinary MK or when he held no public office at all.
But according to the report, during Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister, Fahima was hired to do work at the Caesarea home in violation of government regulations and in an underhanded fashion: A contract was ostensibly signed with someone else, who then hired Fahima as a subcontractor.
The report also found that Fahima received inflated payments, including for doing “urgent jobs” on Shabbat and Yom Kippur – days when employees of the Prime Minister’s Office aren’t available.
But his friends in Or Akiva said that, religiously speaking, Fahima was “traditional plus.” While he doesn’t always wear a kippa, “he goes to synagogue every Friday night and has religious relatives,” a neighbor said. “I don’t know if he's Sabbath-observant, but it’s illogical that he'd work in the prime minister’s house on Shabbat. It’s very unlike him.”
In a talking-points memo for Likud Knesset members, Netanyahu said that for the past several years he and his wife have spent Yom Kippur at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, not at their Caesarea home. And in any case, the memo added, he certainly didn’t call Fahima to do repairs at the house on Yom Kippur.
Fahima is no longer a member of Likud’s central committee, since he decided not to run for reelection in 2012. But he remains a party member.
“Fahima has been a friend of Bibi’s for many years,” said a fellow Likud member from Or Akiva who requested anonymity. “He boasts of being close to Netanyahu but is very discreet about what goes on in his house. He has often said, ‘I was at Bibi’s in Caesarea.’ He likes him a lot and in recent years began getting a lot of electricity jobs from Caesarea. He has even referred jobs to other electricians.”
Fahima’s extended family also belongs to Likud. Netanyahu has visited the Fahima family home many times for Mimouna, a Moroccan Jewish festival, not just in 2010, the only such occasion cited in the comptroller’s report.
At one time, Fahima was friendly with Lillian Peretz, a former housekeeper for the Netanyahus who later sued Sara Netanyahu for alleged abusive treatment. Peretz asked him to testify in the suit, but he refused.
In the two days before the report was published, Fahima has kept his phone disconnected and refused to answer reporters’ questions.
The Likud talking points also said Fahima and another repairman had been regularly employed at the Caesarea house even before the Netanyahus bought it, and simply stayed on under the new owners.
Netanyahu’s associates said Tuesday that Fahima was hired despite the fact that he is a Likud activist, not because of it. “You can’t discriminate against someone and refuse to employ him just because he’s a Likud member,” one Likud source said.