Israeli PM Netanyahu's bill for scented candles causes a stink
The Israeli prime minister's reported liking for scented candles has sparked a row.
Benjamin Netanyahu spent about HK$12,684 of public money on scented candles last year, fuelling accusations of extravagance.
It followed earlier complaints over his penchant for publicly funded pistachio ice cream and the installation of a double bed on a plane taking the first couple to London.
Netanyahu's expenditure on his three residences - official and private houses in Jerusalem, and a private home in the luxury seaside resort of Caesarea - were disclosed after a freedom of information request.
The prime minister spent more than HK$7.2 million on the houses, a third more than was budgeted. The sums included almost HK$203,000 on flower arrangements. Israeli taxpayers paid almost HK$685,000 for cleaning, gardening, maintenance and utilities at the Caesarea residence, where the Netanyahu family spends occasional weekends.
Netanyahu's office issued a statement quoting Israeli musician, Arik Einstein, who died last week, from an interview he gave in 1998. Einstein had said: "People are treating Prime Minister Netanyahu with terrible injustice. They're abusing him and I'm just shocked at the level of contempt and hatred they're demonstrating towards him.
"How much can you suck his blood? How far can you go with the entry to the inner sanctum?"
The statement noted that the Netanyahu family paid for expenses relating to the swimming pool at the Caesarea residence "from its own pocket" and that there had been a 42% reduction in expenses incurred at the home. It added: "It bears noting that the official prime minister's residence serves year-round for hosting heads of state, numerous consultations, and multi-participant meetings."
In February, Netanyahu was forced to cancel a taxpayer-funded contract with the Metudela ice cream parlour in Jerusalem after it was disclosed that around 14kg of the frozen dessert was being delivered each month, mainly in pistachio and vanilla flavours.
Three months later, the prime minister again came under fire after it emerged that a double bed had been installed in a plane taking Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, to London - a flight of less than five hours - for Baroness Thatcher's funeral at a cost of HK$989,000. The revelation came amid protests against a government austerity budget.
Limor Livnat, Israel's culture and sport minister and a party colleague of Netanyahu's, criticised the "tsunami of attacks" on the prime minister, his wife and their expenditure.
"The prime minister is not only the busiest person in the country, but I would say he is the prime minister of the country hardest to run in the world. And I don't think I'm overstating this," she told Israel Radio.
"It is round-the-clock work. He works for the country, he has no private life, he can't go anywhere, he can't go out for fun, he can't ride a bike down the street. I know of no other country where there is such persecution."