Benjamin Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for the last nine years, and for 12 years altogether, the longest serving prime minister apart from David Ben-Gurion. During his time in office, Netanyahu intensified the occupation, made a political agreement with the Palestinians far less likely, destroyed the Gaza Strip ghetto and worked to cruelly deport asylum seekers. He’s a prime minister who is afraid to make decisions, and he’s a leader who offers no vision for his nation.
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These are the main issues on which Netanyahu must be judged, along with his role in the corruption and bribery allegation that police are investigating. But it is these issues that are constantly being forced off the agenda in favor of preoccupation with his surroundings. The recording released Sunday by Walla, in which the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, is heard yelling at the family’s media adviser, does have public interest, but it is yet another example of the way the public’s attention is being diverted away from Netanyahu’s failures as prime minister, in favor of issues of psychology and interpersonal relations.
It is possible that Sara Netanyahu abused household employees. It is possible that she was behind the request to refer to her as Israel’s “first lady,” and it’s possible that she is indeed guilty of aggravated fraud, for which charges a pre-indictment was held this month. But those aren’t the reasons that Israel is sliding down the slippery slope toward a binational state, that democratic values are being crushed and that Israel has seemingly lost its humanity when it comes to asylum seekers.
Despite his constant complaints about the media, Netanyahu is actually being treated too leniently, under the principle of “it’s the womnan’s fault.” This principle entered Israeli politics in 1977, in the wake of the illegal dollar account held by Yitzhak and Leah Rabin over which the former resigned as prime minister. In successive decades, Yizhak Shamir’s wife, Shulamit Shamir, was depicted as controlling and Sonia Peres as insufficiently supportive of the career of her husband, Shimon Peres. Nili Priel, the wife of Ehud Barak, and the wife of former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, illegally employed foreign workers, as if their husbands didn’t notice who was in their homes. For Ehud Olmert, the woman to blame was his bureau chief, Shula Zaken.
In this respect Sara Netanyahu tops them all; she has become the main target for the arrows originally targeting the prime minister. Thus it emerges that Benjamin Netanyahu, who is meant to navigate the ship of state under impossible conditions, is no more than the helpmate of the “controlling” and “aggressive” woman who “abuses workers,” “decides who gets appointed” and “pampers herself in luxury hotels.”
A destructive form of confusion is operating here. Benjamin Netanyahu, not Sara, is solely responsible for running the country. He is the one who must be held accountable to the public for his failures as prime minister.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.