“The woman I love.” That’s how Benjamin Netanyahu referred to his wife before being rudely interrupted by panelist Guri Alfi (“I love her, too”) on the political-satire show “State of the Nation” a few weeks ago. There is no reason not to believe him. Netanyahu’s feelings are not a subject for criticism. They are his.
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But the way he and his advisers are handling the evidence about Sara Netanyahu’s prima facie violations of Israel’s labor laws at the Prime Minister’s Residence is nothing short of ridiculous. It’s sad to find that in this respect, too, Netanyahu is amenable to pressure.
Never has Sara Netanyahu flown into a tantrum, media adviser Nir Hefetz declared in a television interview. Hefetz pounded home the thesis that Sara is a calm, pleasant woman; he even contended that the allegations against her are part of a conspiracy ultimately aimed at the prime minister.
What kind of strategy is it to claim that someone is utterly angelic? The Netanyahus, who according to Hefetz met urgently to discuss this media crisis, might have portrayed Sara as a multisided person who responds complexly to pressure situations.
But no. From their perspective there is only Sara Netanyahu pure as the driven snow, a lamb, a laid-back, tranquil woman who never raises her voice, even in situations that would pique anyone’s anger. Either lamb or lies. Nothing in between.
These ludicrous comments (“I saw a folder of thank-you letters in their house,” Hefetz said without flinching) can’t explain the facts — it’s hard to understand why an employee at the Prime Minister’s Residence has to work 350 hours a month.
What’s so urgent, so secret, so special to have a housekeeper work so many hours? Is the couple in question unable to function? Are they total invalids who have to be led to the sink to get a glass of water. Do they have to be watched 24 hours a day lest they slip in the shower? People incapable of heating up soup?
In her suit against her former housekeeper Lillian Peretz, and in press statements responding to two newer lawsuits, Sara Netanyahu’s self-image is of a woman tortured by her ungrateful employees and then abused by the furious rabble. That’s a problematic stance. It might be better if Benjamin Netanyahu were more considerate of his wife’s difficulties and reduced her load.
In any event, by continuing to issue peculiar press statements in which the prime minister accuses the help of “slandering” his wife and sullying “her honor” as a political scheme, the couple are damaging Israeli democracy and degrading the public debate. By depicting themselves as victims of blackmail, they are painting the public space in violent, outlandish and dangerous colors, even as they seek to maintain their honor, which is always eluding them.
Even though Benjamin Netanyahu’s survival as prime minister is not in danger, he and his wife apparently feel tortured like Tantalus, who, every time he reached out to take a drink of water, saw the water recede. The Netanyahus don’t feel accepted or respected for an instant — perhaps this is the tragedy of Benjamin Netanyahu himself.