Sara Netanyahu, the third wife of Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, is apparently a raging monster who uses her position to scold her servants and play an important and undue role in her husband’s politics.
At least that is what leading Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot is publishing. In a front-page story, it chronicles the alleged abuse by Ms. Netanyahu against a former housekeeper: “She demanded that I address her as Mrs Sara Netanyahu. If I called her Sara she would scream at me…Whenever I saw her I had to tell her how clever and pretty she was…She phoned me at home at two in the morning to complain about a cushion cover…She insisted I bring four sets of work-clothes: for doing the laundry, for cleaning the loos, for cleaning other rooms and for working in the kitchen.” The housekeeper is suing Mrs. Netanyahu.
Initially the claim of abuse may be meet with skepticism. The housekeeper could be resentful. The housekeeper could simply be seeking money from a wealthy wife of the prime minister and while Mrs. Netanyahu may not be the nicest person considering who she is married to, she may not be that deranged, petty and mean. After all, who would demand some wear four work-clothes? But apparently it is all true:
“Every word rings true,” said a secretary who worked for Mrs Netanyahu during her husband’s first term as prime minister (1996-99). “She would shout at me six times a day, at the press secretary three times, and at Bibi once…I’m still traumatised.”
Beyond her attacks on servants, Mrs. Netanyahu is apparently playing a very prominent role in Israeli politics:
some people close to [Benyamin Netanyahu] say key appointments are made and unmade at her behest. They say he loves her but fears her—and often has to cover for her stormy temperament. A prominent commentator recently averred that Mr Netanyahu is not fit to hold his job “because of his domestic circumstances, and everybody knows and is silent.”
For his part, Netanyahu has naturally come to the defense of his wife. He has told the press that his wife is a kind person and that the influence she has on him is to pressure him to be more kind and generous: “Be more attentive to other people. Be attentive to the elderly, to children, to Holocaust survivors. Be a better father, a better son, a better friend.”
He has told the press to lay off his wife and instead attack him. They can always do both. Look at Bill and Hillary Clinton.
In politics, spouses should always be hand-offs. But that is only if they behave in a respectful manner. If the spouse is running tyranny over state employees – which her servants during Bibi’s tenure are – and is behind many political decisions, then it is absurd to call foul when the press reports such information.
At such a point, a spouse become a legitimate news story.
And, finally, I am sure that amongst Middle Eastern spouses, Sara is hardly the worst. Tunisia’s Laila Ben Ali is equally crude and makes use of her powerful position as wife of the head of government and, unlike Sara, is a looter of the public treasure and, also unlike Sara, is not to be criticized in the Tunisian press. They have another thing in common: they both look like cows: