Photo Credit: Adam Fagen
The PM's official residence, Beit Agion, on Balfour Street in Jerusalem.

About a month after the end of his term as prime minister, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his family on the night between Saturday and Sunday left the PM’s official residence, Beit Aghion, on 9 Smolenskin Street corner of Balfour Street, in the affluent Talbiyeh neighborhood—on the border of the affluent Rehavia neighborhood—in Jerusalem, having resided there for 12 years.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s family will not move to the residence but will continue instead to live in their private home in Ra’anana. Bennett himself intends to sleep in the place several times a week as well as hold official meetings there.

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The Netanyahu family will move back to their private home in Caesarea for several months, while security work is being carried out on their apartment on Gaza Street (in Rehavia) in Jerusalem, and once these are completed, they will move in.

The departure comes after Bennett sent a message to Netanyahu that he must evacuate the residence within about two weeks. In response, on June 19, the former PM undertook to leave the residence by July 10, with Bennett’s approval. In the week following Bennett’s inauguration, Netanyahu hosted former United States Ambassador Nicky Haley and Republican Rev. John Hagee at the official residence, without authorization. The reception raised public criticism.

Last week, it was reported that the Shin Bet was interested in renovating the prime minister’s residence on Balfour at a cost of between NIS 10-15 million ($3-4.6 million) after Netanyahu’s departure. The security agency explained that the residence is not secure enough, and repairs must be made there. It was also reported that the Shin Bet recommended these renovations a long time ago, but the Netanyahu family refused, as it would have forced them to vacate the residence.

Beit Aghion was built for the Jewish-Greek merchant Edward Aghion who was an affluent resident of Alexandria, Egypt. It was designed by the Jewish-German architect Richard Kauffmann and was built between 1936–1938. In 1941, Peter II, King of Yugoslavia, resided there. During the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, it served as a hospital for the Irgun.

In 1952, the Israeli government purchased the house and turned it into an official residence for the Foreign Minister. In 1974, the Government decided to transfer the official residence of the Prime Minister from Beit Julius Jacobs, the official residence of Israeli Prime Ministers from 1950 to 1974, to Beit Aghion. In the 1990s, a wall was erected around the house for security reasons and a segment of Balfour Street was closed to traffic.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.