Israel's Biggest Presidential Expenses in 2014: Ceremonies and Roofing

Report reveals spending for current and former presidents; residence must pay office and security costs for former President Shimon Peres.

Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel
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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressing a meeting of Israelis from across religious spectrum, Jerusalem, July 23, 2015.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressing a meeting of Israelis from across religious spectrum, Jerusalem, July 23, 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel

During President Reuven Rivlin’s first five months in office, the President’s Residence in Jerusalem spent 2.93 million shekels ($770,000). Expense categories included security, renovations, furniture and events. The total for 2014 was 14.3 million shekels, of which 11.4 million shekels were spent in the last seven months of Shimon Peres’ presidency, which ended in July.

The spending reports were issued at the request of the Movement for Freedom of Information. The President’s Residence holds many official ceremonies throughout the year, and this is reflected in its expense report.

Last year, for example, the actor and news anchor Dan Kaner was paid 3,000 shekels to host a reception, while the former CEO and editor-in-chief of Israel Channel 10 News received the same amount as master of ceremonies of a scholarship award event. Between September and December, the President’s Residence paid 14,100 shekels to foreign-media consultants and 31,800 shekels for translation, writing and communications consulting.

The President’s Residence underwent renovations after Rivlin became president, incurring expenses that included 16,500 shekels for new furniture and 17,300 for new electrical appliances. New curtains cost 1,589 shekels, while a table and chairs for the kitchen came to 2,245 shekels and unspecified textiles cost 2,950 shekels. Wood office furniture was refinished at a cost of 9,912 shekels, while 12,600 shekels were spent potted plants and perennials for the garden in order to comply with religious laws governing the shmita sabbatical year.

Maintenance and renovation work including plastering, painting and door replacement set the President’s Residence back 50,000 shekels, while plumbing work cost an additional 21,100 shekels and renovation of the main gate cost 9,500 shekels. During Peres’ term as president, the roof was resealed at a cost of 586,000 shekels.

By law the President’s Residence must underwrite office and security expenses for former president Shimon Peres. Security for Peres after he left office cost 164,500 shekels in 2014. Peres forwent an office at the state’s expense, but the state contributed about 510,000 shekels for the establishment and operation of a new private office for him. The President’s Residence also allocated 26,300 shekels to the Peres Center for Peace for telecommunications infrastructure in Peres’ new office.

Pomp and circumstance

In the final months of Peres’ term as president last year, the President’s Residence held official receptions for the presidents of Sri Lanka, Romania and Peru that cost 56,000 shekels, 79,600 shekels and 55,000 shekels, respectively. A state reception for Pope Francis cost 71,000 shekels.

The annual award ceremony for outstanding soldiers in 2014, held at the President’s Residence, cost a total of 700,000 shekels, including 214,700 shekels for catering expenses.

During Peres’ term in 2014, the President’s Residence paid 30,700 shekels to Israeli hotels to accommodate the president during visits and meetings around the country, including 1,100 shekels to the Dan Accadia Herzliya Hotel and 8,157 shekels to various members of the Dan hotel chain.

In 2013, the President’s Residence spent a total of 16.5 million shekels. Of that amount, 64,800 shekels were spent on hotels and the rest went to on security, computer costs, ceremonies and events, and hosting foreign delegations and leaders. A reception for U.S. President Barack Obama cost 32,700 shekels.

The report reveals how much the President’s Residence spent on offices for former presidents in 2013. The office of Yitzhak Navon cost 59,700 for management fees, 15,000 shekels for co-op fees, 50,000 shekels for rent and 57,000 shekels for various services. In 2014 renovation of the office cost 4,908 shekels and household services cost 2,978 shekels. As the wives of former presidents, Ora Herzog and Reuma Weizman received 100,000 shekels and 60,000 shekels, respectively, to reimburse them for household expenses.

Promoting transparency

“The President’s Residence did the right thing when it decided to publish the information,” said Einat Horowitz, the director of the Movement for Freedom of Information. “We expect President Rivlin to continue to promote transparency, as he undertook to do upon assuming the post, and that similar information will be volunteered to the public in the future.”

Peres’ office said in a response: “The office of the president of the state is a central one in the State of Israel, with more than 100 employees in various departments. The office is responsible for conducting official ceremonies and receptions for national delegations. The former president was diligent about going out to tour the country once a week, and during his term there was a dramatic increase in delegations from all around the world, including by corporate heads and national leaders from around the world, enhancing Israel’s prestige and helping to strengthen the economy.”

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