Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara, tried to dig up dirt on her husband's political rival Naftali Bennett six years ago, Channel 12 News reported Tuesday.
Channel 12 obtained a letter Netanyahu penned ahead of the 2013 Israel election, which reveals her handwritten request to find damaging information on Bennett (who is now the education minister and leader of Hayamin Hehadash party) and his wife Gilat.
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The letter also shows the premier's wife was displeased with the results that were produced at her request.
Netanyahu in response claimed that timing of the leaked report, less than a week before Israelis go to the ballot, was "curious."
She also said that the letter "contains requests to journalists to ask questions" about Bennett, rather than any demand to dig up information.
Regarding Bennett's advancement up the political ladder, Netanyahu asked in the letter: "Did he do improper things when effecting his takeover of the Habayit Hayehudi party?" Bennett was then contending in national election for the first time as head of that party, which he quit ahead of this year's election.
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She also asked to look into suspicions of financial irregularities in Bennett's conduct. "Are there financial problems regarding the Yesha Council's finances? What problems?" Netanyahu wrote, referring to a major umbrella organization for Jewish settlements in the West Bank Bennett had led. "Where did he obtain all those donations and money for his primary [campaign]?"
According to the report, Netanyahu tapped a businessman associate, who in turn hired a private investigator to gather information on Bennett – Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau chief in 2006-2007, who was reportedly fired after clashes with Mrs. Netanyahu. Hayamin Hehadash co-leader, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also worked at the Prime Minister's Office between 2006 and 2008 and is said to have been fired for similar reasons.
"Where did they get that he developed Netanyahu's educational program? That isn't true!" Netanyahu wrote in her letter. "Was he fired or not fired from his job with Netanyahu??? And when??? Was he fired or not fired from his job as the Yesha [Council] director general??? If he was fired, why was he fired?? and when?"
Similarly, Sara Netanyahu also sought dirt on Gilat Bennett, her letter reveals.
The prime minister himself had also sought to smear the Bennett family in 2013 in a series of articles on Walla, a January report on Kan public broadcaster revealed. Walla did run negative articles about the Bennetts, including one about Gilat Benett working as a chef at a non-kosher restaurant.
The Israeli news website was owned at the time by Netanyahu crony Shaul Elovitch, who was charged in February with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing, for his alleged relations with the prime minister.
"They claim she found religion 13 years ago! How do you explain that five years ago she was seen at events wearing tight jeans, revealing her stomach, wearing a spaghetti-string undershirt???" Sara Netanyahu wrote, "Why didn't you uncover the fact that until about two years ago, his wife was a chef at a non-kosher restaurant that serves seafood, shrimp and pork? You didn't expose the fact that his wife is a left-wing secular."
Sara Netanyahu also complains in the letter about Arnon Mozes, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher who was charged in February with offering bribes to the prime minister. "Why Noni [Arnon] Mozes supports him [Bennett] and promotes him, and publishes flattering articles … on Ayelet [Shaked]."
Netanyahu responded to the report in a statement, blasting journalists for "publishing a document from six years ago and not even asking who leaked it and for what purpose." She added that both Bennett and Shaked spoke out against her in media briefings and in public "throughout the entire 2013 campaign" and "described Mrs. Netanyahu in twisted, lying ways."
"Mrs. Netanyahu did not react and her voice was not heard," the statement said. "The paper you presented contains Mrs. Netanyahu's requests to journalists to ask questions in response to Bennett's smears. Mrs. Netanyahu did not contact a private investigator and did not ask for that directly or indirectly."