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Netanyahu's Spending Habits Get Scrutiny In Growing Scandal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here speaking Monday, is under fire over a report of lavish spending.
Debbie Hill UPI /Landov
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here speaking Monday, is under fire over a report of lavish spending.

The household spending of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become a political issue in Israel, where the attorney general is now considering whether to open an official inquiry over allegations of excessive spending and related crimes.

From Jerusalem, NPR's Emily Harris reports:

"Israel's comptroller general issued a report on the Netanyahus' household spending following complaints from members of parliament."The report cited 'excessive spending,' such as an average monthly cleaning bill of over $20,000 for two homes and $40,000 spent in takeout food over two years. "Possible criminal wrongdoing includes hiring an electrician forbidden to work for the prime minister because he's an official in Netanyahu's political party. "One political rival, Yair Lapid, said the report shows Netanyahu is 'totally disconnected' from ordinary Israelis. Netanyahu's office said household management is changing and blamed a campaign focused on removing him from office."

The story has brought topics such as payments for recycling and garden furniture into Israel's political sphere; the country will hold elections on March 17.

In the wake of the comptroller's report, a new voter survey finds that 41 percent of respondents are now less likely to support Netanyahu's Likud Party, reports Ynet news.

But a story by Haaretz states, "Netanyahu is cheap, petty, paranoid - but coated in Teflon."

The newspaper's Gidi Weitz elaborates:

"When Netanyahu was leader of the opposition, many Jerusalem restaurateurs became familiar with his habit of walking out after a meal without paying. During his first term as prime minister (1996-99), he sought to buy cigars at the taxpayer's expense. At the end of that term came the scandal over a contractor who provided the Netanyahus with hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of services that they charged to the state. They were also suspected of having kept hundreds of gifts they received in their official roles."

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