MKs Raid Public Coffers to Buy Cameras, Maps

'Communicating with the electorate' means spending spree for lawmakers

Members of the Knesset are keeping in touch with their voters at the public's expense, using the electorate communications budget to buy cameras and video cameras, probably to document themselves for their voters.

Some have used the funds to buy navigation gear, to reach their voters. A group of Knesset members chose to use the money to study a foreign language, to communicate not just with their voters but foreign leaders.

The greatest spender this year was MK Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List-Ta'al ), who spend NIS 86,565 to communicate with the voters, closely followed by Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka, who spent NIS 83,139, and Uri Ariel (National Union ), who spent NIS 83,045. These three are followed by Shai Hermesh (Kadima ) with NIS 81,722, Shlomo Molla (Kadima ) with NIS 80,599, Yoel Hasson (Kadima ) with NIS 78,966, Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu ) with NIS 78,917, Fania Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu ) with NIS 77,786 and Ahmed Tibi (Ta'al ) with NIS 74,888.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Minister Without Portfolio Benny Begin did not spend a dime from the electorate communications budget. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent NIS 3,342 on cell phones, office equipment and Internet services, while opposition leader Tzipi Livni spent NIS 66,487.

The most popular item in the MKs shopping list was cameras. Jacob Edery (Kadima ) bought a digital camera for NIS 1,549 and a scanner for NIS 399. Eli Aflalo (Kadima ) bought a digital camera for NIS 3,400, while Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi ) bought a video camera for NIS 2,399, a GPS system for NIS 1,890 and an audio system for NIS 499. Interior Minister Eli Yishai also bought a video camera, for NIS 1,968. MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud ) spent NIS 1,968 on photography, and Rachel Adatto (Kadima ) had official pictures taken for NIS 1,392.

Also popular was navigation equipment, costing the taxpayer NIS 999 for Zeev Bielski (Kadima ), NIS 500 for Arie Bibi (Kadima ), NIS 1,149 for Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) and NIS 949 for Chaim Amsellem (Shas ). Otniel Schneller (Kadima ) spent NIS 3,480 on maps.

Facebook frivolities

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, meanwhile, spent NIS 11,017 on Facebook and a humble NIS 89 on an electric kettle.

Many MKs also spent money on matters more directly connected to communications: Ahmed Tibi spent NIS 51,094 on cell phones and phone bills, while Yaakov Katz (National Union ) spent 9,213 on the same purpose. Miri Regev (Likud ) spent NIS 1,500 on speechwriting in English.

Robert Tibayev (Kadima ) and Haim Oron (Meretz ) spent NIS 31,925 and NIS 18,000, respectively on professional consultation.

Others chose to check on their voters a little more directly: Avishay Braverman, who plans to contest the leadership of the Labor Party, spent NIS 10,000 on pollsters, while Kirshenbaum spent NIS 11,534 on the same.

The office of runner-up spender Uri Ariel issued a statement in response. "We are working very modestly," the statement read. "We know where every shekel goes and we are certain the community is getting its return tenfold."