Behind Every Leader

In the families of leaders, from India to Texas, the boundary between a gossip column and front page news depends on the context.

Is Sara Netanyahu a private individual or a public figure? What is the report in Yedioth Ahronoth, which got top play, on the civil suit filed against her by former housekeeper Lillian Peretz: a business story, a media story or a political story?

Nearly every politician has some sort of skeleton in their closet. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has Sheldon. The free daily Israel Hayom, owned by American Sheldon Adelson, one of the tycoons backing Netanyahu, is threatening the newspaper that calls itself the "nation's daily," Yedioth opened a front against the prime minister in response.

Netanyahu was startled, as he normally is, and this time perhaps justifiably so. Even Yedioth, which failed in the defense of Ehud Olmert and Haim Ramon, might succeed in an offensive.

Peretz's claims have been countered by Sara's denials but backed by a letter of resignation which looks like it was taken from the archives of former president Moshe Katsav: Where in all of Israel is there another housekeeper who resigns with a lovingly written letter?

It may be that Peretz is a gifted author of fiction, the J.K. Rowling of the Hadera-Caesarea region, who recounts embarrassing descriptions of Sara by recycling depositions presented in court during the earlier case of the contract workers of the mover Avner Amadi, who was involved in a corruption case against the prime minister in 1999.

The stories of female soldiers in the military secretariat of Netanyahu, told to their parents, on the attitude the "lady" had toward them during her visits to her husband's office, are mostly character statements.

But in the families of leaders, from India to Texas, that are also inclined toward dynasty building, the boundary between a gossip column and front page news depends on the context.

The attitude of Bushra Assad, sister of President Bashar Assad, and wife of former intelligence chief Assif Shawkhat, is of interest to intelligence services in the West. Everything, and everyone who influences the decisions of a leader are strategically significant. It is essential to know what influences a leader operates under.

In critical times the seriousness of the depression and lack of attention of former prime minister Menachem Begin during crucial discussions - from the bombing of the reactor in Iraq to the war in Lebanon - were covered.

If there is talk about a decision to go to war with Iran within the Netanyahu government, it will be a soul-wrenching issue, and not only from a spiritual sense. Had former prime minister Golda Meir or opposition leader Tzipi Livni been prime minister and married to an odd figure like Guma Aguiar, the Beitar Jerusalem financier who was recently committed to a mental health hospital, this would have certainly been a matter for the public to know.

An outburst by the spouse of the prime minister may result in an accidental pressing of the red button. The Shin Bet, when asked, refused to say if the protection of the prime minister includes such potential threats.

The one who has insisted on nationalizing Sara Netanyahu, and to granting her official status, is her partner in Netanyahu Ltd., whose existence was exposed in the Peretz suit.

Using the Prime Minister's Bureau to battle the suit is an unacceptable use of a public asset; Sarah should have hired a spokesman, like Olmert did when he ran into the law. Benjamin Netanyahu has always had trouble distinguishing between the issues of the two in their marriage.

Once, at a beachfront hotel in Tel Aviv, he included in a discussion of state business the following surprising question: "Do you know my wife's IQ?", to which he quickly answered: "155!"

For all his cavalier attitude, Benjamin Netanyahu is first a politician in his thinking, analyzing the forces behind the attack. He may find Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a declared enemy of Edelson and his paper, in alliance with his attackers.

Cases linked to Netanyahu which have been dormant for the past two years, may reawaken. The danger is not over his spotless home in Caesarea, but over in the Prime Minister's Bureau in Jerusalem.