Why Hasn't Anybody Noticed the Netanyahus' Garden Chairs Switcheroo?

Another week, another spending scandal for the Netanyahus. Only this time, no one seems to care.

Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter
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Much ado about not very much: Garden furniture (illustrative).
Much ado about not very much: Garden furniture (illustrative).Credit: Dreamstime.com
Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter

It began the same way as always: with a damning news report exposing yet another ludicrous spending scandal by Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu.

This time it was even more petty, more embarrassing than the time they were revealed as having an ice cream budget of about $2,700 a year, or the time they ordered a king-size bed installed on a plane to London (for a five-hour journey) that cost $140,000, or that time that Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker exposed the Netanyahus’ habit of jet-setting around the world on private planes paid for by rich friends and benefactors (a scandal that gained the soubriquet “Bibi Tours”). Or any of the multiple spending scandals that entrenched the Netanyahus’ as hedonistic pleasure-seeking wannabe-aristocrats.

This time, according to Yedioth Ahronoth which broke the story, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is investigating a complaint that the Netanyahus took furniture that had been bought for the PM’s official residence in Jerusalem to their private home in Caesarea.

According to the complaint, a senior official at the Prime Minister’s office ordered new garden furniture for the prime minister’s official residence that was identical to the furniture in Netanyahu’s villa in Caesarea. Then, there was a switcheroo: the new furniture was delivered to Caesarea, while the old one went to the official resident in Jerusalem - albeit freshly painted.

Thus, allegedly, the Netanyahus’ got new garden furniture worth up to 30,000 shekels, on the taxpayers’ dime.

Switching garden chairs. That sounds low.

Only this time, unlike other times where a Netanyahus’ spending scandals won front page headlines and a multitude of TV satires and internet memes, this one aroused no public outcry, no satire, no puns, and remained pretty much confined to Yedioth’s laconic original report.

Some did try to fan the flames. Journalist Rino Zror, on his Facebook page, expressed outrage and connect the story to the forthcoming closure of the “Bibi Tours” case. “The attorney general has stopped the process of clearing away (Israel’s) Augean stables. He may think that our stables are fine as it is, but we don’t. And we want our chairs back.”

Zror’s outrage notwithstanding, so far the story failed to gain traction. At all. Very few media organizations followed up on it, and it was all but ignored on social media. After years and years of being bombarded with tales of the Netanyahus’ hedonism, it seems Israelis have become jaded.

It could, of course, be the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens. At times of crisis Israelis tend to set aside corruption concerns and band together behind the prime minister. It could be that the story of the garden chairs' switcheroo would have spawned public outrage and comedy gold if it hadn’t been swallowed by the week’s events.

Or, it could be that Israelis simply don’t care any more. The story, after all, broke before the kidnapping occurred. It encountered a sea of indifference.

It could also be that after hearing about $2,600 bills for scented candles, $140,000 for beds on five-hour flights and expensive trips around the world, that Israelis find it hard to be impressed by a rather silly story about switching garden chairs. It could be that they’ve started to think about the Netanyahus’ expensive tastes as an unfortunate but ultimately insignificant reality.

Sometimes, if you repeat something wrong over and over again, it might eventually seem about right.

The First Couple, Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, ahead of a flight to Ottowa (March 3, 2012)Credit: Amos Ben Gershom

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