MKs Turning Taxpayer Shekel Into Fringe Benefit Bonanza

The biggest government in the history of Israel is costing a bundle. In 2009, Knesset members' nights at Jerusalem hotels alone will cost the taxpayer NIS 2.2 million. In 2010, no less than NIS 2.5 million has been allocated for that purpose, according to the parliament's budgets for 2009-2010, which were approved by the Budget Committee of the Knesset yesterday.

The Knesset's budget for 2009 is NIS 487 million, rising to NIS 496 million in 2010.

Each Knesset member gets a special budget for "keeping in touch with the public", through renting an office outside the parliament building. The special budget per MK is NIS 68,000 a year. If an MK fails to actually rent an office outside the Knesset, his budget for keeping in touch gets cut to NIS 49,000.

Most of Israel's elected representatives like to travel abroad to represent the country. The Knesset has budgeted NIS 2.3 million for parliamentary delegations in 2009, a figure that rises to NIS 3.2 million in 2010.