Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a new round of public uproar at home. Last year, his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned after corruption charges. Now, Israel’s Channel 10 TV reported over the weekend that Netanyahu himself spent $127,000 in public funds on a custom-built sleeping chamber for a five-hour flight from Tel Aviv to London to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral last month, according to the Associated Press.
News of the splurge couldn’t come at a worse time for the leader. Netanyahu’s coalition government is drawing up new tax increases as part of his austerity plan that up to 15,000 people protested against on Saturday night, according to the Guardian. The austerity measure was proposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, a former TV news anchor who campaigned as the champion of Israel’s middle class. On Saturday, the crowd, chanting “no future with Bibi and Lapid,” marched through Tel Aviv, noted the Telegraph.
Netanyahu’s offices initially defended the installment of the custom-built double bed for the prime minister and his wife Sara, a former flight attendant who is now a psychologist. According to Reuters, it said the prime minister was “entitled” to a good rest after a busy day. But the office quickly changed its stance after the outpouring of public criticism. It now says Netanyahu, unaware of the cost back then, has canceled such beds on all future flights.
Sima Kadmon, a political commentator at Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth, writes that it is “unbelievable” no one in his office saw how ridiculous such a plan was. Kadmon pointed out that Israeli President Shimon Peres, who will turn 90 in June, spent 11 hours on a flight to South Korea without any special requests. “We thought nothing could surprise us when it came to the Netanyahus’ personal conduct,” Kadmon wrote. “Well, we were wrong. It turns out that King Bibi and Queen Sara can do as they please.”
This is not the first time Netanyahu’s budget has come under fire. In February, Israeli media revealed that his office budgeted $2,700 a year for buying ice cream at his favorite parlor a few blocks away from the premier’s official residence. According to the New York Times, his favorite flavor was pistachio, but his wife preferred French vanilla.