Opinion |

Netanyahu Sheds Crocodile Tears Over the Whims and Wrath of His Marie Antoinette

Leaders who cherish their spouse’s privacy don’t push them into photo-ops and state dinners and don’t give them a say in vital decisions and appointments

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Sara Netanyahu, January 22, 2018.
Sara Netanyahu, January 22, 2018.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Benjamin Netanyahu’s absurd reactions to the recording of his wife losing it over a gossip item that failed to mention that she is a psychologist should rightfully be exempt from the usual sniping and critiques. Netanyahu’s habitual self-victimization and recidivist attacks on the media, in response to news stories, have become par for the course , but this case merits special consideration: Both his wife and son, after all, have been publicly humiliated by surreptitious tape recordings within the space of a month. When one looks at such dishonor through the eyes of a loving husband and a devoted father, as Netanyahu is asking the Israeli public to do, one can understand his insult and rage, his efforts to minimize the significance of the exposes and even to strike back at those who would besmirch his family.

One can even feel empathy for Sara Netanyahu. She is caught up in an impossible situation. Her temperamental personality, if we can call it that, is on a constant collision course with the proper behavior expected from the wife of a prime minister. After a long line of former employees have testified about her outlandish demands and her outbursts of uncontrollable fury, after countless confessions by cowed government officials who fear her and her oversized influence and after a criminal investigation into her husband’s ties with billionaires has uncovered her posh passions and how she gets others to pay for them, a short voice recording has provided unequivocal proof that there is a serious problem in the prime minister’s abode. The trivial circumstances of the recorded outburst – the omission of her occupation as psychologist from an insignificant but otherwise flattering gossip item – only amplified the sad resonance of her unbridled outburst at her PR adviser, who also happened to be a close friend.

But contrary to the assertions made by Netanyahu and his toadies, there is no sane country in the world in which the sensational recording publicized by the Israeli news site Walla would not be considered a legitimate news item of compelling interest to the public, even if it is yellow and even if it does elicit discomfort in anyone who hears it. This is doubly true when the said recording is not an isolated incident taken out of context but constitutes clear confirmation of repeated allegations made over the years about the improper attitude of the prime minister’s family towards their home, their domestic help and, in the case, of Yair, their state-funded security guards. The scandal is compounded by the fact that in addition to catering to Israel’s self-anointed First Lady’s Marie Antoinette-like whims, Netanyahu and his helpers also have to make inordinate efforts to hide them from the public. They do this at the expense of the time, money and working hours that are supposed to be dedicated to furthering the interests of the state, not the prime minister’s spouse.

Netanyahu is upset, because the recording demolishes his carefully constructed facade of an innocent family wrongly maligned by a vicious media, which avid Likud supporters still find convincing. Netanyahu invokes an ordinary citizen’s right to privacy in order to lambaste the press, forgetting that he wasn’t elected to serve as perfect husband or father of the year, but as prime minister, the most important and influential man in the country, whose every deed and every confidante is, in a free and democratic country, a legitimate target for media scrutiny and criticism.

Someone who cherishes his family’s right to privacy does not run for prime minister, does not stay at his job after 12 long years, does not insert his wife and son into every state dinner, official visit and photo opportunity, does not allow his spouse to torment helpless employees at his official residence and certainly does not give her a say in the most important decisions and appointments in the land. It’s Netanyahu’s right to believe that remaining on as prime minister is worth the heavy price that his troubled family is paying, it’s just too bad that he won’t spare us his crocodile tears.