Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s penchant for a lavish lifestyle is setting off a uproar, with media and politicians accusing him Monday of extravagantly spending public money.
According to an expense document obtained by a civil liberties group, Netanyahu spent $1,700 on candles, $23,300 on flower arrangements and $31,600 on gardening at his official residence in Yerushalayim, among other costs totaling about $909,000 in 2012. The group obtained the document following a freedom of information request.
The criticism is the latest in a string of similar reproaches against Netanyahu, who is often accused by Israelis of leading a lavish lifestyle while failing to address the economic ills of the middle class.
The report threatens to embarrass Netanyahu, whose government raised taxes and slashed services earlier this year to decrease a swelling budget deficit. Coupled with a rising cost of living, Israelis have for years complained that they struggle to make ends meet.
“When the prime minister presents such inflated and absurd amounts in the expense sheet to the nation, he can’t look at his citizens in the eye and swear that there must be cuts to their welfare, health care, security and education,” wrote Israeli journalist Arye Aplatoni.
Netanyahu, who is known to enjoy puffing on cigars and sipping cognac, has been chided for his lifestyle in the past. Earlier this year, it was reported that Netanyahu spent $127,000 in public funds for a special sleeping cabin on a five-hour flight to London. Netanyahu was forced to stop buying ice cream from his favorite Yerushalayim parlor after an Israeli newspaper discovered his office was spending $3,000 a year for the treat.
In a statement, the prime minister’s office said the official residence is used throughout the year to host dignitaries and world leaders, as well as meetings with many participants. While media reports said his spending was roughly $300,000 over budget, the statement said this year has seen a decrease in expenses at the official residence by 16 percent.