After spending more than double the average monthly Israeli wage on take-out, Bennett pledges to stop billing Israeli taxpayers for his family’s food expenses.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has pledged to pay his family’s take-out and food expenses, which total thousands of dollars each month, instead of billing Israeli taxpayers, after a report about his spending sparked widespread public outcry.
A bombshell report by Ayala Hasson of Channel 13 News found that Bennett charged a staggering 24,700 shekels ($7,571) per month solely on take-out food.
That amount is more than double the average monthly salary in Israel, which is NIS 11,667 ($3,710).
“I have always believed that listening to criticism is not disrespectful — on the contrary, it is the right thing to do,” Bennett said in a statement to Hebrew-language media on Wednesday morning.
“Although the conduct was in accordance with the procedures, I am aware of the public’s feeling [about the expenses.] Therefore, I informed my office staff that from now on, all my family’s food expenses will be paid from my personal account,” he said.
The statement on Wednesday marked a major departure from Bennett’s previous response to the report.
“In the face of a machine of lies, I must present the truth,” Bennett initially responded to the report via a Facebook post on Sunday evening, denying that his family was excessively using taxpayer money for their personal expenses.
“But I am not Bibi [Netanyahu], Gilat is not Sara, my children are not Yair… the expenses of the prime ministerial residence have shrunk dramatically in my term. The attempts to present me as a hedonist are laughable.”
Bennett, a self-made multi-millionaire who made his fortune in hi-tech prior to entering politics, said that his monthly bills were lower than those of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett also attributed high staff and food costs to stalled renovations at the official Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
In a move which he attributes to an ongoing Defense Ministry strike, freezing construction on the Jerusalem residence, Bennett has continued to live full-time in his private Ra’anana residence.
The move has drawn criticism from the public wary of paying for extra security expenses so that he can remain in his home.
Bennett’s neighbors in the bedroom community have also expressed displeasure with the arrangement, as noisy protests and new security barriers have caused major disruptions in the once-tranquil neighborhood.