Israeli Presidential Candidates' Homes: Fit for Royalty?

Following Benjamin Ben-Eliezer’s withdrawal from the Israeli presidential race following graft allegations concerning his apartment, Haaretz assesses the real-estate assets of the five remaining contenders.

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Reuven Rivlin. Jerusalem apartment worth some 3 million shekels.
Reuven Rivlin. Jerusalem apartment worth some 3 million shekels.Credit: Tess Scheflan

On Tuesday, the 120 members of the Knesset will be casting secret ballots for the election of Israel’s next president. The public has limited access to information about the financial assets of the candidates looking to replace Shimon Peres, and in fact it was a police investigation launched last week into the sources of funding that Benjamin Ben-Eliezer used to purchase a lavish penthouse apartment in Jaffa that led to his withdrawal from the presidential race.

Although it does not apply to the largely ceremonial office of president, the law currently requires Knesset members and cabinet members to file financial disclosure statements with the state comptroller once they assume office. But unlike the practice in some countries, the law does not require public disclosure of such information, which is stored in a safe.

The case of MK Ben-Eliezer (Labor) may buttress future calls for Knesset members, cabinet members and other top officeholders to be required to disclose their financial interests. Last January, the Knesset voted down similar legislation, although another bill addressing the issue with respect to MKs and cabinet ministers is pending.

TheMarker has conducted a survey focusing on the real-estate assets of the five remaining candidates for the presidency. The values stated are estimates based on the prevailing value of similar properties in the same area. Comparison is sometimes difficult, however, as values are influenced by the properties’ physical condition.

Reuven Rivlin

MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) lives in an apartment building constructed some 30 years ago in Jerusalem’s Yefeh Nof neighborhood, thought to be worth about 3 million shekels. Former cabinet minister Benny Begin, son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, lives one floor below. In private conversations, Rivlin has said he would prefer to live in his apartment to the extent that it would be possible if he is elected president, rather than residing full-time in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. As a Knesset member, Rivlin, 75, receives a 39,000-shekel gross monthly salary. He also gets a 3,000 monthly pension as a former cabinet minister.

Dalia Itzik

Former cabinet minister and ex-Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik lives in an apartment in Jerusalem’s Ramat Sharett neighborhood, in a building constructed about 20 years ago by her brother, Hezi Balas, a construction contractor. Her apartment is estimated to be worth between 2 million and 2.5 million shekels ($577,000 to $722,000). Last year, Itzik, 62, also bought an apartment at the Gan Ha’ir complex next to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv from a friend, Ronit Raphael. According to published reports, it is a four-room, 134-square meter (1,442 sq. ft.) unit on the 13th floor, and was purchased for about 4.5 million shekels.

Dan Shechtman

A recipient of the Nobel Prize for chemistry and a professor at Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Dan Shechtman lives in a two-family home in the upscale Denya neighborhood of the city. According to his son-in-law, Alex Finkelstein, Shechtman bought the house – which Finkelstein characterized as modest – in the 1970s. The home is thought to be worth between 3 million and 4 million shekels.

Meir Sheetrit

MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnuah) lives in an old house in a neighborhood of single-family homes in the town of Yavneh, south of Tel Aviv. He served as mayor of the city between 1974 and 1987. By some estimates, his home is worth between 5 million and 6 million shekels, although Sheetrit himself pegged its current value at 2 million to 3 million shekels. Sheetrit told TheMarker that it cost him $250,000 to build in the late 1980s, but acknowledged that real-estate prices have risen. When it comes to the net worth of Sheetrit – together with his wife, Ruth – Forbes magazine in 2012 estimated it at 55 million shekels, which would rank him as the fourth wealthiest politician in the country at the time.

Dalia Dorner

A former Supreme Court Justice who now heads the Israel Press Council, for decades Dalia Dorner has lived in an apartment on a busy thoroughfare, Herzl Boulevard, in Jerusalem’s Beit Hakerem neighborhood. It’s an old apartment that the former judge must climb 56 stairs to reach, and is thought to be worth between 2 million and 2.2 million shekels. In addition to serving on the Supreme Court, Dorner is a former military court judge. Her government pension is estimated at 35,000 shekels a month gross.

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