Ehud Barak's New Neighbors Complain He's Commandeered the Building

Since defense minister moved into new Tel Aviv high-rise, other residents have had their movements limited and have been asked to identify themselves to security guards, say neighbors.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak moved a few months ago to a rented apartment in the luxury G Tower in central Tel Aviv. At the time of the move, Barak said he had decided to sell his apartment in the Akirov Towers to improve his public image. "My wife Nili and I have decided that the sale of the apartment is necessary, recognizing that our place of residence has caused a feeling of alienation and separation from broad sections of the public," he said.

Barak's new apartment may be smaller than the previous one, but from the heights of the tower it is hard to describe it as modest. The urban landscape of Tel Aviv you see from its balconies is impressive, but it also seems that the feeling of alienation from the people down below continues as before.

Visitors who don't live in the building are limited in where they may go inside. The guard in the entrance lobby controls the elevator and sends visitors to the fourth floor, where there is a fancy lobby for entertaining guests. It has a white grand piano, comfortable lounge chairs and an elegant meeting room. Guests are invited to browse the catalogs of various artists, and of leading fashion designers. If you have the time, you can read one of the many books lining the shelves. And if reading tires you out, you can move on to the nearby pool and fitness center to liven up.

A number of building residents told Haaretz that their movement within the building has been limited since Barak moved in. It seems some are not very happy with their new neighbor.

"A few weeks ago he hosted Tony Blair," said one of them. "He didn't take him to his apartment but simply went to the meeting room in the lobby without booking it in advance like other residents. His security guards closed the entire area and no one could enter. If he had invited him to his apartment all that would have been avoided, but he didn't do it," said the neighbor.

Residents also complain that they are required to identify themselves to security forces: "I live here, why do I need to answer them?" said one resident.

But the residents have much more to complain about than the restrictions on their movement. Some said the security arrangements have affected their property.

For example, in response to demands from the Shin Bet security service, changes were made in the building to prevent others from looking into Barak's apartments from the balconies - both to protect his privacy and prevent attacks. Other complaints say the Shin Bet parks its vehicles in other residents' parking spaces in the underground garage.

As a result, the building's house committee held a special meeting a few weeks ago. Residents complained about the security arrangements, the Shin Bet's demands and Barak's behavior.