Lifestyle & Belief

Furor erupts over Benjamin Netanyahu's $127,000 in-flight bed on Europe trip


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara cast their ballot at a polling station on election day on January 22, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel.


Uriel Sinai

Benjamin Netanyahu had a $127,000 custom-built bedroom installed on a plane chartered to carry him and his wife on a flight to London to attend Margaret Thatcher's funeral last month, a five-and-a-half-hour flight.

The news has enraged Israelis, coming amid protests over government plans to raise taxes as part of an austerity budget.

Netanyahu's staff attempted to contain the scandal on Sunday, with the London Telegraph quoting a source close to him as saying: 

"The prime minister was not informed of the cost of installing the rest cabin. Once he learned of it he issued an immediate order to stop installing such cabins on all future European flights."

Netanyahu, the Telegraph pointed out, had also not been informed of Netanyahu's $2,700 allowance to buy his favorite flavors from a Jerusalem ice cream parlor, which made headlines in February and was scrapped soon after.

Israel's Channel 10 television, meantime, reported that the cost of installing the bed was added to the $300,000 cost of chartering an El Al Boeing 767 to transport Netanyahu's entourage to London.

According to the Times of Israel, the Israeli prime minister is only permitted to use local airlines for his flights, for security reasons. 

The demand for a double bed "excluded two of the three Israeli airlines — Israir and Arkia — from the contract to arrange the London flight, because their aircraft are not large enough."

However, headlines abut the cost of the alterations to the El Al plane were scathing, with one front page story on Israel's biggest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, reading:

"Where is the shame?"

Reuters cited Netanyahu's office staff as saying he was unaware of the extra cost of installing the double bed and had just wanted to arrive fresh for meetings with world leaders.

And a statement from Netanyahu's office cited by various media initially noted the flight was scheduled for midnight after a hectic day, adding that:

"In light of this, it is appropriate that Israel's prime minister will be able to rest the night."

Israel's Channel 10 was cited as noting that President Shimon Peres, who is about to turn 90, did not request a bed even on a recent 11-hour flight to Korea, and never did so on flights to Europe.

Nor did prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon ever ask for a bed to be installed on their flights to and from Europe.

Netanyahu's office, while maintaining that he was entitled to a good night's sleep on an overnight flight after a busy day, said a sleeping cabin would no longer be installed on his flights to Europe.