Our ideal model of a politician’s wife is Sonya Peres. She was mute and invisible. Sara Netanyahu is not like that. You can write as much as you want about the jewelry, the screaming and the 11 suitcases, but you can’t deny that she was a unique phenomenon. Margaret Thatcher ruled for 11 years, Golda Meir for only five, while Sara, with a short break, ruled for almost 15 years.
At first, we thought she was just one more politician’s wife, who would head a charity for protecting cats and otherwise hold her silence. But politicians’ wives don’t really remain silent, and there is always someone who will listen to them. The justice minister listens to Mrs. Sa’ar and the alternate prime minister listens to Mrs. Lapid. And who’s behind Yisrael Katz? And is Mrs. Dery confined to the kitchen? And is Mr. Schleien, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli’s partner, silent? What Mrs. Bennett thinks about her husband’s decisions has already been demonstrated.
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But the one who brought real change was Mrs. Netanyahu. Her husband not only listened to her, he obeyed her. She not only shattered the glass ceiling above the heads of politicians’ wives but established an independent and behind-the-scenes headquarters of her own. She did this not on the basis of political machinations but through her radiant personality, personal charm and famed modesty. She gave few interviews and speeches.
There was no true struggle over who was in charge at the Balfour Street official residence. The forces were uneven. A stupid son and feeble husband paved her way to the top. What is she hiding? The secret of Bibi’s unstinting loyalty has remained undeciphered, and such loyalty isn’t self-evident. Rumors of a mysterious document obligating him to hold her by the hand for all eternity have never been dispelled.
But blind spots did not affect her. With magnanimity, she divided the work so that it fit the skills of the two men she lived with. The son concocted, the father formulated and the wife approved. The final word was always hers. It’s true, there was that awful yelling, but you could view this, if you wished to, as educational, or, if I may be permitted, as didactic (she is a psychologist after all).
To her credit you could say that despite being a genteel European, she never hesitated to immerse herself in the mire, delving into its minutest details. Yes, she was responsible for the planting of Bardugo at Army Radio, and she demanded that Walla remove a photo of her in an unseemly dress from its website. That’s true, but who exerted pressure to move the American embassy to Jerusalem? And who was behind the Abraham Accords? And behind the appointment of the chief of staff? I don’t really know, but I have some hypotheses.
In her generosity, she gave the credit for her achievements to her presenter. He rewarded her with loyalty and praise. Even if he made some small changes in nuance, he never strayed from her directions. If you knew how painful her reaction to any deviation could be, you’d understand why. He did the best he could, but sitting in the opposition has marred his performance. He read the demand to continue providing personal security to his family as if it were a message dictated by kidnappers pointing a gun at his head.
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The request was denied, but credit for the rule that one votes not just for a politician but for his family as well goes to Sara Netanyahu. In the next election, people will have to examine the political positions of the candidates’ partners. From here on, we won’t hesitate to ask before an election: And, what does Lihi Lapid think about vaccinations? Does Gilat Bennett support an attack on Iran? Spouses should be included in television debates before an election.
She didn’t have it easy. There were those who mocked her. Author and journalist Benny Ziffer, in an instance of his famous sarcasm, called her “attractive,” even “erotic.” In her naivete, she accepted these “compliments” with an embarrassed smile. “The state without Bibi will not hold up,” she said 20 years ago, long before his trial, the bribery charges and submarines, and, as someone who was at the head of this state for so long, one should take her words with the appropriate gravity.