Israeli PM Naftali Bennett to pay for family’s food after criticism

Naftali Bennett speaks at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank (5 April 2022)
Naftali Bennett

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he will now pay for his family’s food bills from his own pocket.

He faced criticism after a TV report alleged extravagant expenditure at his private home, which currently functions informally as his official residence.

He later disclosed that $26,400 (£21,000) of taxpayers’ money was spent each month, including $7,400 on food.

Mr Bennett, who is a self-made millionaire, insisted that his conduct had been within the rules.

His office also said his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, had spent three times more in total – $84,300 per month – at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem and his private home.

Mr Bennett, who controversially decided to continue living in his private home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Raanana after taking office last June, has attempted to paint himself differently, our correspondent adds.

However, last weekend a Channel 13 TV report alleged that the prime minister’s household spent large amounts of taxpayers’ money on staff, cleaning and take-away food.

Mr Bennett defended himself in a Facebook post on Sunday, declaring that such spending had “dramatically decreased” during his premiership and that “attempts to present me as a hedonist are simply funny”.

He explained that his family of six did not employ a cook – as prime ministers are entitled to do – and instead ordered meals from restaurants. The Netanyahu family, he claimed, had spent $11,100 each month on food.

Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party said in response that the Bennett family’s food bill just covered “personal matters” because their home was not used for official events, and that the Netanyahu family’s monthly “personal take-away expenses” had not exceeded $400.

On Wednesday, the prime minister acknowledged the criticism by members of the public, and announced that he would pay for his family’s food.

“Although our behaviour was in accordance with the rules, I am aware of the feeling created in the public. Therefore, I announced to the staff of my office that from now on, all of my family’s food expenses will be paid from my personal account,” he said in a statement.

“I am not in this job for money or respect, but to serve the citizens of Israel with all my might, and that is what I’ll continue to do.”

Mr Bennett set up and sold two hi-tech companies for more than $250m before entering politics. He earns $16,500 a month as prime minister, while the average monthly salary in Israel is $3,400.

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