American officials are perplexed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s habit of bringing bags of dirty laundry from Israel to the United States on official visits in order for the clothes to be washed by U.S. government workers, according to a report published Wednesday in the Washington Post.
The report matches years of reporting by Israeli journalists but is the first time that American officials have commented on the subject in a leading American publication.
According to the report, when Netanyahu arrives for official visits in Washington and stays at the Blair House, the presidential guesthouse across from the White House, he brings with him “bags and suitcases full of dirty laundry” from Israel. The clothes are then “cleaned for the prime minister free of charge by the U.S. staff,” paid for by American taxpayer money, according to the report.
The Blair House offers free laundry services to all its guests, but the report stresses that most foreign heads of state use it in a reasonable manner; basically to wash the clothes they and their families wear during their visit. “The Netanyahus are the only ones who bring actual suitcases of dirty laundry for us to clean,” one U.S. official explains in the story. “After multiple trips, it became clear this was intentional.”
Netanyahu has faced criticism in Israel for years over the behavior described in the report. In 2011, investigative journalist Raviv Drucker reported for the first time about the Netanyahu family’s laundry habit. In 2018, Netanyahu’s former spin doctor who turned into a state witness against him, Nir Hefetz, said that “on every trip suitcases come filled with laundry for dry cleaning, and I’m telling you that journalists have asked me about it and I’ve checked the bills. Nothing appears in the bills, they somehow hide it.”
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Netanyahu, it should be noted, lives with his family during the week at the official Israeli Prime Ministers’ Residence, which has its own washer and dryer, and enjoys state-funded access to dry cleaning services. In 2016, in fact, he filed an administrative petition against the attorney general and a staffer at the Prime Minister's Office in an effort to bar publication of accessing receipts for laundry services provided to the premier's official residence during 2014.
The Israeli embassy in Washington replied to the Washington Post report by saying that “These groundless and absurd allegations are aimed at belittling Prime Minister Netanyahu’s monumental achievement in Tuesday’s historic peace summit brokered by President Trump at the White House."
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The embassy added that “On this visit, for example, there was no dry cleaning, only a couple of shirts were laundered for the public meeting, and the Prime Minister’s suit and Mrs. Netanyahu’s dress were ironed also for the public meeting. Oh yes, a pair of pajamas that the Prime Minister wore on the 12 hour flight from Israel to Washington were also laundered.”