No Supermarket Wants to Feed the Netanyahus

Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, Dec. 4, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover

They would seem like the kind of customers any grocer would love to have, the kind who commits in advance to spending a whopping 400,000 shekels ($103,000) on food in the coming year. But none of Israel’s supermarket chains are interested.

The customers are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, who have earned a reputation as big spenders and lovers of luxury. But to deliver the goods to the Netanyahus means meeting the onerous terms of a government tender.

What emerged from official deliberations last week held by the Prime Minister’s Office tenders committee is that the attractive prospect of delivering nearly 8,000 shekels of groceries to the Netanyahus every week is more than offset by the payment terms.

Unlike ordinary shoppers, who pay by cash or credit card, the prime minister has the tab for his official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, and for some items for his private home in Caesarea, picked up by the government, which pays its bills late — sometimes very late.

The tender also requires that prices for the food be set at the start of the year, a commitment supermarkets are loath to make.

In 2012 and 2013, too, no retailer was ready to bid for the contract, and this year the tenders committee is determined not to repeat the embarrassment, according to the minutes of its meeting.

Instead the committee is weighing two options.

In the first, “The PMO will continue to do business with five or six food retailers, each of which will receive an order for the identical sum.”

In the second, “A professional team will compose a list of staples that are bought regularly and [after checking prices each time] it will pick the three cheapest chains and the sum will be divided equally among them.”

In past years the committee has opted for the former arrangement, but for 2016 it seems to be leaning toward the latter. The committee members agreed to try to hold a regular tender toward the end of 2016 for 2017.

The committee didn’t ask why a family of four — the prime minster, his wife and two adult children — spends so much money on groceries, especially as the tender doesn’t include food for guests or for public functions.

The tender has been set in recent years at 300,000 shekels for the year, but for the last four months of this year the committee added 100,000 shekels to the budget, apparently creating a new baseline figure for 2016.

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