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Israel: Massive renovations said planned for Prime Minister’s Residence

Officials are planning a massive renovation of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, giving the home major security and cosmetic infrastructure upgrades, Channel 12 reported Sunday.

According to the report, officials are using the opportunity provided by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett not using the residence to carry out the work, which is expected to take up to a year to complete.

Bennett, much to the annoyance of his neighbors, decided to remain in his home in Ra’anana and has not slept at the official residence or hosted a world leader there since taking office.

The main thrust of the renovation, which is still in the planning phase, will be to upgrade the security at the site in central Jerusalem.

The report, citing sources in the Shin Bet security service, said that in addition to installing more advanced security systems, the home was also currently inadequate for a prime minister, lacking the command and control infrastructure necessary for him to oversee a major crisis from home.

Currently, the prime minister would have to go to his nearby office to deal with emergency situations.

The security service also wanted to improve the ability to evacuate the prime minister from the home in the event of a crisis, the report said, without giving further details.

Recent years saw frequent large-scale protests outside the residence aimed at then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In one case, he was apparently rushed to a secure room after demonstrators calling for his resignation breached a police checkpoint outside the compound.

The renovation will also see the home get major electric, plumbing, and interior design overhaul, including plasterwork, paint and new kitchen cabinets.

The report provided no details on the cost of the renovation.

The news is an acknowledgment of long-made complaints by Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, who argued that the home was in a state of deep disrepair.

In 2015, Sara Netanyahu famously invited celebrity interior designer Moshik Galamin to inspect the premises and give his professional opinion in a video.

The claims from the Netanyahus were widely seen as an attempt to discredit accusations that they were abusing and misusing public funds to finance a lavish lifestyle, including thousands of shekels a month on alcohol and ice cream. While others wondered what had happened to the hundreds of thousands of shekels budgeted to the upkeep of the compound.

In 2019, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing state funds in a plea deal in a case involving allegations of illegally procured catering services at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is currently on trial in three separate graft cases, including one where he and his wife are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of illicit gifts of cigars, jewelry, and champagne from wealthy benefactors.

Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing.

Source: TOI