Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to leave the postholder’s official residence in Jerusalem, the Times of Israel reported on Tuesday. According to his office, the leader of the opposition will not vacate the property for several weeks.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is reported to be indifferent to the situation. This suggests that he is making an effort not to antagonise his predecessor and former mentor.
“Netanyahu is still using the PM’s residence on Balfour Street as if he hasn’t been voted out of office, exploiting the lack of clear rules of transition,” reported diplomatic correspondent Tal Schneider. “He is doing more than sleeping and eating at the residence; he is hosting prominent guests.” She cited the reception of former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Christians United for Israel founder John Hagee.
The Israeli journalist noted that Haley tweeted a photo from the meeting inside the residence referring to Netanyahu by his former title.
Critics have accused Netanyahu of conflating the state’s needs with his own. “Now it seems that as far as he is concerned, Bennett is just a guest in the PM’s office, and the new coalition will collapse and Netanyahu will be back in power,” said Schneider. “Given that premise, why bother packing his bags?”
She pointed out that, “The Netanyahus’ attachment to the residence has become a national joke. And their attachment to some of the gifts that came along with it has become the subject of a corruption trial.”
Schneider noted that there is no official protocol for the handover of power in Israel, including on procedural matters like vacating the official residence. However, she pointed out that it is “reasonable” to allow several days for the transition, since changes of power take place swiftly. “Nevertheless, it is inappropriate to make use of the trappings of leadership during that time, as Netanyahu is doing.”