PM Flew El Al Without Tender

Two weeks ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to the United States to meet with top American officials, but without first holding the requisite tender - which obligates him to find the cheapest way to get there.

Netanyahu flew directly to Washington from Ben-Gurion International Airport using a chartered El Al Boeing 767, at a cost of about one million dollars, without first holding a contest between Israeli airlines over price.

Under Israel's civil service rules, a tender must be held to get competing bids before a government department can buy a service. The rule applies to flights abroad for the prime minister and other government ministers.

Previous prime ministers, including Netanyahu himself, in previous flights to the United States, have held tenders and even stopped over in Europe in order to lower costs to the taxpayer. Certain prime ministers, such as Ariel Sharon, and presidents, including Moshe Katsav, were not above taking regular commercial flights.

But on his latest visit to the United States, during which time Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he took a Boeing 767 that flew direct to Washington.

In September 2009, another scandal involving a flight taken by the prime minister was seen when it transpired that he'd flown an El Al Boeing 767 jet to Washington at a cost of $1.3 million - despite having received cheaper offers from other airlines.

Though it might be cheaper for Israel's high officials to fly with foreign carriers, they say the Israeli security forces insist that they stick with Israeli airlines for security reasons.

The Prime Minister's Office commented that the procedure by which the prime minister flies to official meetings abroad has not changed. In accordance with the directives of the security forces, the office said, the prime minister flies only on Israeli airlines. The contract with the airlines is made through a travel agency chosen by tender.