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Israeli Media's Ludicrous Obsession With Naftali Bennett's Wife

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat.Credit: Emil Salman
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

“There’s no other way to put this: The Bennett family’s decision to take a Hanukkah vacation abroad is delusional and outrageous, not to mention idiotic to the point of rousing concern,” Sima Kadmon wrote in a page-one column in Thursday’s Yedioth Ahronoth.

This was in addition to an article with the headline “The flight and the scandal – the personal example apparently ends at Ben-Gurion Airport” and incensed coverage by all Israeli media outlets of the trip taken by Gilat Bennett and her children, in defiance of the advice that her husband, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, gave to ordinary Israelis.

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And therefore, to borrow Kadmon’s words, there’s no other way to put this: It’s the preoccupation with this trip by Gilat Bennett and her children that is delusional (to refrain from the rest of her biting adjectives). The Bennett family’s trip can’t be compared to what the Netanyahu and Rivlin families did at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, when they took advantage of their “celebrity discount” and VIP treatment in order to get tested for the coronavirus in a rapid and efficient manner, at a time when for ordinary citizens, the testing process was complicated and riddled with obstacles – all so that they could celebrate Passover with their children, in defiance of anything allowed by the regulations.

The Bennett family, in contrast, is violating no law or regulation. Gilat Bennett is entitled, like every other Israeli, to expose herself and her children to whatever level of risk she sees fit.

“Sometimes appearance matters more than reality,” Ben Caspit wrote in Ma’ariv. “The public is watching you, members of the Bennett family. The public’s ledger is open, and its hand is writing.” But contrary to what Caspit wrote, I think the prime minister and his wife aren’t the nation’s parents, who have to set a personal example in their every action, but human beings just like us, who make both good and bad decisions.

I wouldn’t go abroad right now, and I certainly wouldn’t take my young daughter with me. But Gilat Bennett has every right to decide differently decision, even if it contradicts her husband’s advice to all Israelis. And I’m not watching her or any other public figure, because I’m an adult who recognizes that when a crown of any sort is put on someone’s head, it doesn’t turn that person into a “symbol” whose behavior we must emulate. The media, of course, shouldn’t spare the prime minister its criticism. But what is the point of this lunacy?

It’s not just the kind of hysteria that has frequently erupted during the pandemic, with every appearance of a new variant – as if we hadn’t been imprisoned in this crisis for almost two years already – being accompanied by a host of catastrophic scenarios that are inflated to grotesque proportions by the media (which is why the public, with its sharp senses, is increasingly turning its back on these wearisome news broadcasts). Rather, these are primarily the phantom pains left behind by the Netanyahu family and an inability on the media’s part to wean itself of that family’s magical, disruptive influence.

When Gilat Bennett is dubbed “the wife” and compared, even with reservations, to Sara Netanyahu – yes, that very same Sara who, according to affidavits from employees of the prime minister’s official residence, unfortunately appears to have an angry personality with a fairly impressive destructive potential; that very same Sara Netanyahu whom everyone in the political world knows was responsible, perhaps no less than her husband, for the status of many politicians (including Naftali Bennett and his political partner, Ayelet Shaked), bureaucrats and other senior officials – what stands out is the media’s need to balance its feverish preoccupation with that couple, appear objective and unbiased and protect itself against allegations by Netanyahu fans of one-sidedness and persecution.

What stands out is the media’s fear that even the most minor mistake might spoil the miracle and bring back Netanyahu, since even his harshest critics, who admire him and raise him to the level of an all-powerful magician, don’t believe he has really reached the end of his political road. With your hands on your hearts, from a purely objective standpoint, is Gilat Bennett’s sin really so terrible?

Drama, hatred, admiration, blame, fear – all these powerful emotions are substances from which it’s very hard to wean oneself. But the time has come for the hardest job of all – practicing a bit of boredom and normality. Bon voyage.

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