Netanyahu Seeks Committee to Decide on Private Jet, New Residence for PM

Prime Minister would handpick panel members in motion to be discussed Sunday.

The government on Sunday will debate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motion to establish a public committee, headed by a former judge, to consider the purchase of a private jet for the use of the president and prime minister. The committee will also decide whether to build a new residence for the prime minister and his family.

Committee members - who will be handpicked by Netanyahu and submit their recommendations to him – will examine the purchase of a private jet for official visits abroad by the prime minister and president, including the financial and security issues. Until 2001 the Israel Air Force made available a Boeing 707 airplane for the prime minister's official flights, but later it became outdated and was scrapped.

Now the president and prime minister fly overseas on private jets rented from Israeli carriers. The issue of purchasing a private jet is raised every few months due to the special demands of security personnel and the prime minister. It surfaced again this week as a result of the controversy surrounding Netanyahu and his wife Sara's cancelled trip to Nelson Mandela’s memorial ceremony in Johannesburg.

The motion states that Finance Ministry officials have carried out administrative work on the issue, but due to its complexity, a public committee would be best suited to rule on whether to purchase a private jet.

On Sunday the government will also debate the building of a new Prime Minister's Office and a new official residence for the prime minister and his family. For decades, prime ministers have lived in a residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street, between the capital's prestigious Rehavia and Talbieh neighborhoods. The Prime Minister’s Office is located in the Government Complex opposite the Bank of Israel.

In February 2009, days before the national election, the government approved the financing of a project for a new Prime Minister's Office and official residence. A timetable was set for the completion of the plans and the publishing of tenders. The new residence and office were to be constructed in Givat Ram neighborhood, not far from the present location of the Prime Minister’s Office. At the time, the project was severely criticized in the media. In April 2009, the new government scrapped the plan, but did not preclude the possibility that the issue being being brought up again.

GPO