Opinion

What’s Going in Netanyahu’s House?

Sara Netanyahu at a ceremony, June 30, 2019.
Emil Salman

It’s really too bad about all the good work by Guy Peleg, Raviv Drucker, Aviad Glickman and all the others who dig, reveal and publish. Too bad all that work has been frittered away. Journalism that doesn’t influence or change anything is a waste. Every night there’s another scandal and still, a million Israelis (according to the polls) declare that despite the revelations, they will vote for the liar and troublemaker.

They aren’t claiming that the transcripts from the investigations have been forged. It’s all true, they say, but what does that have to do with the election? The police transcripts don’t tell them anything new. It doesn’t bother them that the prime minister does in front of the whole world what they would be embarrassed to do in their own home. Quotes from the transcripts bore them. The ratings for news programs are dropping; the mainstream media is no longer their main source of news. They believe Facebook, not Channel 12 News.

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But there are still journalists who work according to the old model, with quality control, criticism and supervision. Peleg, Drucker and Glickman continue to bring us stories with the dedication of carriage drivers who continue to ride in their horse-drawn conveyances even as cars block the roads. They continue to bring us the transcripts even though they simply prove again and again what no longer needs to be proven.

Behind Peleg’s tweets there is a system that checks and approves, but one stupid tweet by Yair Netanyahu has more influence. The reports from the investigations are no longer news; they are just confirming what we already know. We understand and have internalized them – the man is a liar and a trickster, but so what? Honesty is not the topic of this election. The topic is immunity, and that’s not just Netanyahu’s opinion; his whole family is working on it. She’s the commander and supervisor, he’s the presenter and the kid tweets what his father is thinking but doesn’t have the courage to say out loud. The whole family is working on the immunity. The question is how much it’s costing us and how much it’s costing democracy.

It’s about time we knew what’s going on there, without any remorse over “invasion of privacy,” without “leave Sara alone.” Why should we leave her alone? Sara Netanyahu has herself changed her status from private to public. “I’m the first lady,” she told Miriam Adelson. Based on her own words she’s a public figure in every way. So she owes the public explanations about what she does in its name. The public wants to understand her bizarre appearances, even if they’ve become routine. We’ve gotten used to them. We no longer ask whether there’s another prime minister in the world who is so handcuffed to his wife; we even ask ourselves if that’s how they make love. (Not really. Even Channel 12’s Amit Segal doesn’t think so.)

An illustration of Sara Netanyahu.
Eran Wolkowski

The usual response to Sara Netanyahu’s grip is a forgiving smile, like the response to a toddler who pees on the carpet. What do you want from her, we say, and we spin our finger near our temple as if to indicate, leave her, don’t take her seriously. Imagine if Ronit Katz would insist on going on every trip with her husband, the foreign minister. We would say, “Ronit, are you crazy, or what?”

That Sara Netanyahu went with her husband to London for his half-hour meeting wasn’t just abnormal, it was disturbing. If the public appearances are so weird, how bizarre is what’s going on inside the house on Balfour Street? It’s not right to treat her as if she doesn’t understand what’s going on around her. Until proven otherwise, she’s a rational woman whose actions require an explanation. For example: Why does she insist on going on every trip? Who approves this and who funds it?

And don’t ignore that strange son who lives on Balfour Street, either, firing out tweets about Yitzhak Rabin being a murderer and Ehud Barak a friend of a pedophile. This isn’t just anyone sitting with a laptop in a rented apartment. This is the son of the prime minister in the prime minister’s official residence. Don’t make do with a wave of the hand that says leave that shitty boy alone. After all, that shitty boy has more impact on my life than any thousand gifts his mother received.

We essentially don’t know if the country is being run by the cabinet or in the kitchen on Balfour Street. We don’t know how the weak statesman, his weird wife and peculiar son are running our lives, hiring and firing and working on the longed-for immunity in between. Kudos to Drucker, Glickman and Peleg, really, but it’s time for them to tell us something we don’t already know.