With PM’s residence under construction, Lapid to live in nearby apartment — reports

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is set to become prime minister this week, is planning to move into a Jerusalem apartment near the official Prime Minister’s Residence, according to Tuesday reports.

The prime minister’s official residence on Balfour Street is undergoing renovations, and the apartment is located in a compound that already has security protection in place.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett came under fire for living at his family home in Ra’anana rather than moving to the official residence.  The Balfour facility was being renovated under orders from the Shin Bet security service, but Bennett’s critics and neighbors slammed the cost and nuisance of the layers of security that were added in his hometown.

Neighbors also had to deal with the noise of regular protests against the prime minister.

To avoid similar criticism, Lapid plans to move to a well-secured home adjacent to Balfour in the pricey Talbieh neighborhood, Hebrew media reported.

Lapid also lives in the densely populated Tel Aviv, meaning securing the area around his house would be costly.

Lapid’s choice of residence lies within the highly protected area surrounding Balfour, which is walled off from the rest of the neighborhood by gates and security. In recent years, the apartment has served as a barracks for Shin Bet guards, and before that was used by the Guatemalan embassy.

The apartment is a modest, second-story, three-bedroom unit around 100 meters from the official residence, Channel 13 reported.

In recent days, it was hooked up with secure communication lines and some furniture was moved in. At the beginning of Lapid’s tenure, he will likely remain in Tel Aviv until the apartment is ready, Ynet reported.

For years, Balfour became nearly synonymous with the 12-year reign of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over Netanyahu’s final year in office, swelling protests near the residence became a weekly feature of life in Jerusalem, with tens of thousands joining every Saturday night.

The Balfour residence has been uninhabited since Netanyahu left in July.

Pedestrians on Balfour Street, in the section closed to cars, with the Prime Minister’s Residence behind them, December 24, 2021. (David Horovitz/Times of Israel)

Bennett never moved into the residence over the course of his year in office, as the Shin Bet security service hoped to renovate the building for security purposes. Bennett also said he did not want to disrupt his children’s education by making them switch schools. It is unclear when the upgrades at Balfour will be complete.

Bennett has since said remaining at home in Ra’anana was a mistake.

He said he “would have taken a sleeping bag, entered Balfour and started to work” had he known the complications and outcry that would arise from the decision to stay in his family home.

With the premier absent, pedestrians were offered a rare opportunity to stroll about along the normally closed-off section of Balfour Street. Tightened restrictions will likely return should Lapid or another prime minister return to the official residence in the future.

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