Knesset Committee Ups Netanyahu's Travel Budget

Knesset Finance Committee also approves requests to increase President Shimon Peres' 2011 air travel budget by NIS 2.7 million and budget of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by NIS 55,000.

The Knesset Finance Committee provided year-end budget increases Tuesday to a number of government offices, including that of the prime minister. The move is meant to provide those offices with enough funds to meet expenses incurred throughout the year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's international air travel budget for 2011 was increased by NIS 13 million to NIS 27 million. At the beginning of this year, Netanyahu was given NIS 14 in air travel funding, but a budget division official at the Finance Ministry said that amount was set arbitrarily since the prime minister's plans were unknown at the time.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara on a flight to London, May 3, 2011.
Amos Ben Gershom, Government Press Office

Netanyahu's travel budget was therefore increased to reflect actual trips taken throughout the year. Nonetheless, MK Ruhama Avraham Balila (Kadima ) asked for a detailing of the prime minister's air travel.

The committee also approved a request to increase President Shimon Peres' 2011 air travel budget by NIS 2.7 million in order to reflect his trip last month to Vietnam. Yoram Raviv, the deputy director general of the President's Residence, said the total cost of the trip came to NIS 3.45 million. Of that, NIS 550,000 was paid for by business people who joined the Israeli delegation, and another NIS 200,000 was paid out of the budget of the President's Residence. This left NIS 2.7 million unfunded.

The committee made adjustments to the budget of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, adding NIS 55,000 to bring funding for his office to just over NIS 5 million. Funding for the office of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been debilitated by a series of strokes, was increased by NIS 279,000 to NIS 1.52 million. The office budget of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who is 96 years old, was decreased by NIS 94,000 to NIS 293,000.

The administrative budget of Prime Minister Netanyahu was also increased by NIS 9 million to NIS 135.4 million. And the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is headed by Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, was given another NIS 3 million - bringing the ministry's budget to NIS 19.5 million - to provide funding for a unit to combat the delegitimization of Israel.