Teflon Bibi rides out new expenses storm


The report issued on Tuesday by State Comptroller Yoseph Shapira on major overspending at Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence was potentially explosive for the prime minister.

The report contained allegations of excessive spending on fancy meals, the cleaning of his private weekend home in Caesarea, and hairdressing for his wife, Sara.

It included a potential criminal investigation into what appeared to be a fraudulent contract awarded to an electrician who is a Likud party member and friend of the Netanyahu family.

But will any of this affect the outcome of the election next month?

While some of the details are new, similar allegations have been made several times in the past against the Netanyahus. Opposition spokespeople were quick to portray the findings as further proof of his unsuitability to continue as prime minister, but there was a certain reluctance to focus on the report, as opposed to Likud's policies and record in office.

Currently, the polls have Mr Netanyahu's Likud and the Zionist Union headed by Labour leader Isaac Herzog running neck-and-neck, at a considerable distance beyond the other parties.

However, Mr Herzog's chances of forming a coalition are very limited as many of the parties he would need to support him refuse to sit with each other in the same government.

Over the last month, most voting shifts have taken place within large blocs, but a wider migration between right and left has yet to be detected.

Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu is working to shore up support for his premiership after the elections.

In a meeting with Charedi journalists on Tuesday, he promised that his next government would not make evading the IDF draft a criminal offence.

Three Charedi parties are running in these elections and are expected to have between 15 and 20 seats in the next Knesset. One party, Yachad, has already announced it would support Mr Netanyahu; and the other two, Shas and United Torah Judaism, are expected to do so after the elections.

Mr Netanyahu seemed to get another boost on Monday when President Reuven Rivlin appeared to deny reports that he would automatically call upon the leader of the largest party to head a government. This seemed to favour Mr Netanyahu, who the polls predict will have the largest bloc of supporters.

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