Spending Habit

05.15.13

On Netanyahu’s In-Flight ‘Bed Chamber’

I was not going to begrudge the Netanyahus their ice cream.

When it emerged in February that Israel’s Prime Minister was spending hundreds of dollars every month at a local ice cream parlor, I honestly thought “C’mon, now. Let the man have his ice cream!” Because you know what? He’s the Prime Minister, and I’m comfortable with the notion that heads of state get little perks here and there. You want $2,700 worth of ice cream every year? Go ahead. You’re Prime Minister.

But dagnabbit, even in those rare moments in which I’m feeling magnanimous toward Bibi, he has to come along and ruin it.

You see, on Monday we learned that the Netanyahus have been extravagant with much more than just dessert. According to Ynet, between 2009 and 2012 the Prime Minister’s food and hosting bills more than doubled; cleaning expenses went from $17,000 to $30,000; and “representation expenses”—clothes, shoes, makeup, and hair—“nearly doubled.”

And then, then—then there was the in-flight rest chamber.

You heard me:

Per Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office's request, a special "rest chamber" was installed in the airplane which took the PM and his wife to Margaret Thatcher's funeral in London.

According to the report, the chamber included a double-bed and was surrounded by four walls to give the couple absolute privacy.

… The airline received $427,000 for the flight, $127,000 of which were paid for the chamber and its complex installation, which required electricians, engineers, porters and additional workers.

... Netanyahu's office stated: "The flight was scheduled for midnight after a hectic day. The following day, the PM was supposed to represent the State of Israel in a number of formal international events, including meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"In light of this, it is appropriate that Israel's Prime Minister will be able to rest the night between such busy days."

Close to $3,000 a year for ice cream? Okay, sure. But $30,000 worth of wardrobe and hair, and a $127,000 bed? For what was likely a five-hour flight? Are you kidding me with this?

In all my years of watching the Bibi Show (a show which began for me back in the 90s and includes such highlights as Hate Speech from a Balcony; Inciting The Western Wall Tunnel Riots; and Making Stuff Up in Front of Congress), I’ve never known him to have anything more than a slippery grasp of any reality other than his own political prospects.

For instance, I have no doubt that he did not intend to give aid and comfort to Rabin’s assassin-to-be on that balcony—but that’s what he did. I similarly have no doubt that he did not want to see 17 soldiers killed in the tunnel riots (though I’m less convinced that he gave much of a thought to the 70 Palestinians who also died)—but that’s what happened. And when he stood before Congress and talked as if 20 years of history hadn’t happened? Well, actually…okay, that time he got exactly what he wanted, because America proceeded to continue to do nothing to advance a two-state peace. (But I would argue that was a bad thing!)

How badly did he miss the mark regarding his flight to Thatcher’s funeral? Here’s how bad: Confronted with the expensive bed, the Prime Minister’s Office actually said the following:

According to the PM's instructions, the expenses for the visit, which lasted less than 48 hours, were reduced as much as possible.

Bibi, I tried. I really did. And I continue to think your ice cream budget is really not that big a deal.

But there is no way in Actually-Real-Reality that a $127,000 in-flight bed (for a five-hour flight!) can be considered anything other than sheer, egocentric folly of the highest order. It certainly can’t be considered a “reduction” of expenses.

And in a country in which upcoming budget cuts mean 40,000 more families will soon find themselves living below the poverty line? It’s not too far from obscene.