Revelations that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had an annual ice cream budget have some Israelis criticizing the leader.
An article published by the Israeli newspaper Calcalist reveled that Netanyahu requested and received permission to purchase 10,000 shekels (about £1,750) worth of ice cream for his residence each year.
The 10,000 shekels ice cream budget is minute compared to the 2.46 million paid to maintain the Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem, the nearly 50,000 for his private residence in Caesarea, and 1.1 million for the upkeep of a third residence in Jerusalem. However, many feel it is yet another example of how Netanyahu continues to live an extravagant lifestyle while he works towards passing an austerity budget that will reportedly affects teachers, social workers and police officers.
After learning of the ice cream budget, Netanyahu's political opponent and Labor Party leader, Shelly Yachimovich, said:
If there's no bread, let them eat ice-cream. Should we laugh or cry? Was that what he meant when he said there are no 'free meals'?
Following the Calcalist report and vocal criticism by his opponents and Israeli citizens alike, Netanyahu said the contract agreement between his office and Metudela, the ice cream parlor supplying the frozen desert, was "excessive and unacceptable." An official with his office told The Guardian:
As soon as the prime minister found out about the agreement signed by his office with that ice-cream establishment, for the supply of ice-cream for hosting at his official residence, he gave instruction to cancel it immediately. The prime minister said this is an unreasonable expense that is unacceptable to him.
Serena Kanfi, co-owner of Metudela, said the news reports have helped her business. Since the Calcalist story was published, she has renamed the pistachio ice cream, reportedly a favorite of Netanyahu, “Bibi pistachio" and has had to triple the production of the ice cream to keep up with demand.
When asked about the cancellation of the contract, she told the Jerusalem Post:
It’s really a shame. He’s also a human being. He should be able to eat ice cream wherever he wants.