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Recycling Controversy May Bottle Up Netanyahu Ahead of Election

SARA NETANYAHU

 Illustration From the Israeli Facebook/

A growing controversy over alleged misappropriation of funds by the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the latest in a series of revelations regarding his office’s expenses on luxuries, with speculation growing over the effect of the revelations ahead of the country’s general election in March.

A report published last week claimed that Netanyahu’s wife Sara pocketed thousands of shekels in cash accrued from the recycling of empty bottles from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) during the couple’s second term in office, which began in 2009, Ynet News said.

The report alleged that in 2009 the couple returned the equivalent of about $1, 000 to the state, which legally owned the empty bottles and thus the deposits as well, though the actual amount was $5, 000-$6, 000, Ynet said.

What pushed the story back into the headlines was the testimony of a disgruntled former residence employee who recently told courts that the couple actually owed the state thousands of shekels more, the report said.

SARA NETANYAHU

 Illustration From the Israeli Facebook

 State Comptroller Joseph Shapira promised Sunday to publish a report on his investigation of the PMO’s expenses after Haaretz reported over the weekend that the Netanyahus’ attorney David Shimron had requested a delay, the Times of Israel said.

The comptroller’s office denied it had agreed to the delay and said Shapira’s office was preparing the report for publication. No date was given for publication, the report said.

The report is said to examine overall spending on luxuries such as flower arrangements, scented candles and catering, the Times said.

Questions have arisen over alleged excessive expenditures at Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfur street in Jerusalem and the use of public funds for household expenses at the prime minister’s family’s private homes in Caesarea and Jerusalem. The comptroller recently completed the report after receiving Netanyahu’s response on the matter, Ynet said.

The bottle allegations have been taken up by the campaigns of opposition parties ahead of the election, Israel Hayom (IH) said.

[Being] prime minister is personal conduct, and not just making decisions, ” Tzipi Livni , co-leader of the Zionist Camp slate, said on Saturday. “Simple division gives us NIS 4, 300 [$1, 093] per month, which is minimum wage in Israel, ” she said.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-on said that “the minute the prime minister signed ‘the Netanyahu family’ on the check for the bottle deposit money, he was already deep in an alleged criminal matter, and there is no reason to barricade himself behind the argument that they are persecuting his wife. It’s not her, it’s him”, according to IH.

Meanwhile, Sara Netanyahu’s personal driver signed an affidavit declaring that the deposit money from the bottles he recycled went into the petty cash fund for the residence and its employees, and that he, not any member of the Netanyahu family, was responsible for handling the money, IH said.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “There are no bounds to the systematic denunciation adopted by leaders in the media who are attempting to overthrow the Likud government under my leadership and replace it with a left-wing government headed by Tzipi Livni and ‘Buji’ Herzog. With the security situation in the north, and Iran heading for a nuclear deal that will endanger Israel’s security, the ‘existential’ question that has been covered prominently is bottle recycling at the Prime Minister’s Residence.”

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