Cabinet ministers authorize the establishment of a public committee to examine the feasibility of purchasing a plane for Israeli PM and President, and the building of a new official PM Residence.
Lapid objects, ‘Gov’t must maintain modesty,’
By Moran Azulay
The government has authorized the establishment of a public that will look into purchasing a plane for the travel purposes of the prime minister and president.
The committee will also examine the possibility of building a single structure to house the Prime Minister’s Office and his residence – the Israeli “White House.”
The committee will be chaired by retired High Court justice and former State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg. Members will include former Commander in Chief of the IAF, General (res.) Ido Nehoshtan, and accountant Iris Stark.
Countries around the world customarily purchase planes for the use of their heads of government and state. Currently, Israel rents planes from commercial companies, at a cost of millions of shekels a flight.
Other nations also have one building for the office and residence of the head of government – like England’s Downing 10. But even if the committee decides in favor of a single structure, it will not be finished for many years.
The committee will present its recommendation to the Knesset plenum after it examines financial and security considerations. Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit explained: “We’re talking about a national security necessity that will serve the State of Israel for decades. Additionally, there are currently no proper means of communication on the plane.”
Mandelblit said: “Almost every developed country in the world has a plane for its head of government. The Treasury Ministry has previously determined that purchasing a plane would be financially wise.
In response to several ministers’ suggestion to accept the decision without the committee process, the state comptroller said, “We could have accepted the decision directly within the government, but we thought it was more appropriate to establish a public committee.”
Yesh Atid voted against the proposal. Treasury Minister Yair Lapid presented his objections to the establishment of a public committee at Sunday’s cabinet meeting: “The construction of an official residence and the purchase of a plane were discussed over the years by many different professional elements, who did not find a financial justification for their implementation.”
Lapid added, “During these days of tightening the belt and raising taxes, when the gaps between the poor and the rich are among the highest in the world, the government of Israel had better maintain its modesty, and not make moves which will cause the public to feel that the leadership is disconnected from the hardships of the public’s day-to-day life.”
Some ministers criticized Lapid to voting against the proposal. Economic Minister Naftali Bennett responded: “This is a discussion about heavy, serious matters, part of which touches the safety of Israeli leaders. It’s not right to determine this issue based on populism.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni led the move which established that the committee would have to bring its recommendations for approval by the government and not only the prime minister – adding another obstacle to the proposal.
The budget for the Almog Project to construct a new official residence has been estimated at NIS 650 million ($185 million) over 20 years. The project was approved in 2009, but was cancelled after two months because of public outrage.
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4465811,00.html