‘Judicial persecution of Netanyahu now becoming economic,’ Likud MK says

Knesset Finance Committee meets Tuesday to discuss a range of prime ministerial requests which Opposition vows to defeat.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In the wake of attacks on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the media and by the opposition parties over tax benefits he requested, Likud MK and coalition chairman Miki Zohar said, “The persecution of Netanyahu no longer just ends with the justice system, media and politics. It’s also being dragged into an economic persecution.”

The Knesset Finance Committee meets Tuesday on a range of financial requests made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that amount to hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of benefits.

The list includes retroactive coverage of income tax being demanded now by the tax authorities, as well as coverage of future expenses.  Netanyahu is asking for nine years’ worth of relief from paying income tax on “payments, services and benefits” he received in connection to his private home, from 2009 to 2017.

Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni said they would consider the request because “according to the tax authority, no other prime minister has been charged these taxes in the past.”

Past prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak reportedly told Globes that they never paid such taxes because they had never asked the state to pay for any of their expenses, as Netanyahu has.

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In terms of the future, the committee received a list of financial benefits the alternative prime minister is supposed to receive according to the coalition agreement, which is the post Netanyahu will receive in some 18 months, when he and Blue and White head Benny Gantz switch places.

The agreement required that the government bear all the expenses for staffing, operating and maintaining an official residence, even if it is the private home of the alternative prime minister. It also included coverage for hospitality and the financial expenses of the family living in the residence at the time.

Gantz had announced upon signing the coalition papers that he would waive his rights to all of these expenses.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid vowed to defeat the motions, saying that the prime minister has no business asking for such large amounts of money when hundreds of thousands of Israelis have no idea where their next paycheck is coming from.

“Shame is dead and we are watching the funeral,” he said at a faction meeting Sunday. He charged both Netanyahu and Gantz with being “completely cut off from what is happening in the country.”

Zohar countered on Army Radio Tuesday that Netanyahu’s requests were fair.

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“We created the [coalition] agreement to correct a distortion. No citizen wants the prime minister to take money out of his own pocket in order to do his job,” he said.