The Bennetts' Differences Make Their Marriage Strong

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Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat casting their ballots in the March election.
Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat casting their ballots in the March election.Credit: Hadas Parush

Married life is a fascinating thing. First of all, everyone agrees that you can’t know what’s really going on with a couple, and, second, another well-known rule is that marriage is at best a complicated business. The curiosity to know how it looks from the inside is satisfied by reality shows like Israel’s “Hatunami,” the American “Couples Therapy” and its Israeli version on Kan Broadcasting.

Now imagine an extreme version: a VIP couples’ therapy show in which we can watch a therapy session for leaders: Vladimir Putin and Lyudmila before the divorce, Donald Trump and Melania, Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron, Hillary and Bill Clinton.

If only we could go behind the scenes and see how educated leaders are emotionally illiterate, how independent men are dependent on their wives, how the woman who has just held his hand in an interview cringes when he touches her at home; or the opposite – to see how a couple without charisma, who show no intimacy in public, enjoys a passionate and unusual sex life. To be there in the dramatic moments, to see the bomb dropped (welcome, Monica Lewinsky) and the blood spattered on the walls.

Here in the Levant, the couple covered more than any other, naturally, is Benjamin and Sarah Netanyahu. Even the testimony now being given by Nir Hefetz, state’s witness in Netanyahu’s corruption trial, is a kind of report on their relationship. It seems like with them, there’s no difference between what is open and what is concealed; the passion for power, honor and money is the fuel behind the grandiose operatic performance that those two put on.

Sarah is clearly the builder and the destroyer. Her obsessions are what got him mixed up in all these cases, but she’s also the one who pushed him to keep going and not give up. Wouldn’t you want to know how much fear is involved in this relationship and how much compassion? Does Netanyahu pale when he hears her unreasonable demands, or does he caress her hair and say: “Shhhh, Saraleh, everything’s alright.”?

Gilat Bennett’s decision to go with her children on vacation despite her husband’s recommendations to the public, her refusal to heed his pleadings, provide the moment in which the marriage of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife, which was not a focus, became interesting.

If the Netanyahus are symbiotic, the Bennetts display their differences. Hints of their relationship have already been seen in the refusal to move to the prime minister’s official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem.

Whereas the Netanyahus show harmony at any price, the Bennetts brought a couple's conflict into the public eye. If I were their television therapist, I would tell them that there is strength in a couple that doesn’t make an effort to show harmony. But let’s not kid ourselves, there’s something more dramatic here. Gilat Bennett knows that her trip will damage his fragile and brief term in office.

And so, if I were a couples’ therapist, I would ask what led her to insist in this way? What brought about this aggressive, almost violent action toward one’s partner’s term in office and the public’s confidence in him? My answer would be, almost always – violence wielded against her from the outside.

Gilat Bennett didn’t fly alone. She took the children with her to distance them from the protests and the curses that have been their daily routine for months now. She didn’t act with indifference toward her husband; she was showing that she had had enough of what people dispatched by the previous couple in the prime minister’s residence are doing to him. She distanced her children for a week from the cries of "charlatan," "liar," "traitor" and "destroyer of Israel."

I never had an appreciation for Prime Minister Bennett, and I didn’t give any thought at all to Gilat. But their relationship impresses me. Here we have a couple, in fact a couple who are religious conservatives, showing a new form of public marriage between two people who are different from each other and are not ashamed of their differences and give each other space for self-actualization.

She doesn’t interfere in appointments and decisions, and he will have to come to terms with the limitations she has put on her role. I congratulate them both. They are a strong couple who will survive our reality.

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