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June 26, 2018 10:00 am

Bill to Exempt Israeli Prime Ministers From Certain Taxes Passes Its First Reading

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen eating soup during late-night votes at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament on November 18, 2015, during the state budget vote for 2015-16. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90. – A bill that would exempt Israeli prime ministers from paying taxes on various personal assets passed its first plenum reading in the Knesset Finance Committee on Monday.

The legislation advanced as Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara face scrutiny and possibly litigation surrounding their alleged use of public funds for food and laundry expenses.

Under the new legislation, an Israeli prime minister would not have to pay taxes for payments, services or gifts given to him or her while serving in the leadership position, except for salary. The law would exempt them from paying taxes on state-issued cars and on utility bills at his or her personal home.

The law would need to pass two more voting sessions before being passed into law.

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The decision follows a High Court ruling in December that the upkeep of the Netanyahus’ personal property in Caesarea, which is defined as an official state residence, is a taxable benefit given to a public servant.

Netanyahu’s prime ministerial salary is NIS 48,800 ($12,500) a month, before taxes. After paying taxes to which all citizens are subjected: income, national health, social security and vehicular, his monthly income is left at NIS 17,600 ($4,500)—or $54,000 a year.

If the legislation passes, Netanyahu will be able to retain $2,200 a month in savings from taxes on his home and car.

Knesset member and legislation author Miki Zohar of the Likud Party called the sum given to the prime minister “completely unacceptable,” and a “pitiful and pathetic salary.”

“I understand that public officials are not supposed to earn as much as business tycoons, but there is a limit to what the state has to take,” Zohar said prior to the bill’s ministerial approval. “No one has any doubt that if Netanyahu were a private citizen, he would earn millions and would not need any help.”

Netanyahu’s net worth was estimated to be $11 million (NIS 42 million) in 2015 by Forbes magazine.

That same year, Israel’s state comptroller criticized Netanyahu’s spending as excessive, criticizing his expenses for food, cleaning and clothing.

Last week, Sara Netanyahu was indicted for spending $100,000 on gourmet food between 2010 and 2013, despite the employment of a full-time cook at the residence.

The prime minister has also been investigated for the alleged receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from billionaire supporters, in a case called Case 1000.

The Netanyahus have called the accusations “a new height of absurdity” and denied any wrongdoing.

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