Opinion |

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu Are Israeli Kardashians

The news value is minimal but the gossip value of the soap opera that is Sara Netanyahu's life is huge

Ariana Melamed
Ariana Melamed
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu next to the dedication plaque of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018.
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu next to the dedication plaque of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018.Credit: \ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Ariana Melamed
Ariana Melamed

It’s the best soap opera on the Israel's commercial channels and even Channel 10 News can’t do without it. The news value is minimal, the legal value is somewhere between “food trays” and “fraud and breach of faith.” And it might be many more years before the court decides what really happened in the case involving the prime minister’s residences.

But the gossip value is huge: Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, provides the news programs with high-quality materials that would suit any trash channel. The Netanyahus are becoming, from week to week, our Kardashians. People watch the goings-on of the extended Kardashian family not because they do amazing things, but because they manage to embarrass themselves time after time by doing things to themselves that they are totally unaware of.

The transcripts of the Israel Police's investigations of Sara Netanyahu in the residences’ affair, which made their way to Channel 10’s Aviad Glickman, are pure gold for satirists. The lady yelling "psy-chol-o-gist," whose fondness for costly pink champagne and gifts worth thousands of dollars from (very wealthy) friends has not been denied; who was described by a top staffer at the Prime Minister’s Office (just last week, in a recording of Nir Hefetz that was obtained by the Kan public broadcasting company) as someone whose air conditioners at her private home in Caesarea were cleaned by PMO employees, when they weren’t trembling with fear over her other lawsuits – this is the individual who describes herself as a “modest person.”

She’s so modest that she waves to the masses from the steps leading to the airplane each of the dozens of times that she unnecessarily accompanies the prime minister on his trips, is shocked when her charitable activities are not mentioned, demands that the PMO’s spokesman’s unit deal with her problematic media image, and has no understanding of how things appear to citizens when they see her on screen.

A lack of understanding is accompanied by a sense of persecution. “They,” she told her interrogator, “discriminate against us.” She also believes that "they" wanted to “screw my husband.” Who it is that wanted to do this, why they wanted to do it, what happened to those who wanted to do it – we’ll never know.

As a psychologist she certainly knows very well that the nightmarish world of a person who feels persecuted is hermetic, and that its boundaries cannot be penetrated with logic. The enormous gap between that feeling and the conduct of the Netanyahu family, as it is increasingly being revealed, is particularly problematic: Concerned Israelis will ask whether The Lady has any self-awareness at all. Does she not understand that the investigator sitting across from her may succeed in stifling a giggle, but the public can’t take it anymore?

After the laughing, one can wonder how pathetic it is for one to declare one’s own modesty during a police interrogation, as if the very declaration would create an alternative and more convenient reality for Netanyahu and his family. No, it doesn’t work like that in real life. For too many years, apparently, there has been no one in Sara Netanyahu’s inner orbit to remind her how things look in real life: People eat schnitzel sometimes but no one would ever dream of boasting of their “modesty” in doing so.

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