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28 Feb 2015 00:00
Sara Netanyahu, with her husband Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Reuters)
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the Israeli prime minister, has been thrust to the centre of his election campaign after the release of an alleged transcript of her ranting down the phone to the wife of a political rival during the war in Gaza last summer.
The transcript – written up by an an Israeli journalist who has heard the tape – was published as Sara Netanyahu gave a lengthy interview in which she alleged
her enemies were trying to humiliate her
in their determination to get at her husband.
Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is nervous that the audio tape itself will be released to embarrass him on the eve of the 17 March elections in which, polls suggest, he is trailing his main rival, Yitzhak Herzog.
While she is not up for election, Sara Netanyahu, has been propelled into the campaign amid allegations regarding her behaviour towards staff in the prime minister’s official residence and
allegations of the couple’s excessive spending funded by the state
In the interview in the
Jerusalem Post, the educational psychologist describes her husband as a “hero of the free world” and compares disgruntled staff to “scheming” servants in Downton Abbey.
Amid speculation that the 30-minute tape would be released by Monique Ben Melekh, the wife of the former mayor of Sderot, Eli Moyal – who had criticised Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza war – journalist Ben Caspit released his own transcript of the bizarre conversation.
Netanyahu ‘admired by the entire world’The prime minister’s wife accuses Ben Melekh and her husband of being jealous of Netanyahu as she brags about his talents and how he is admired and loved.
“Does anyone in the country want anyone else other than Bibi? Huh?! Someone in this entire country?! They admire Binyamin Netanyahu the entire world over!
“[He is] a man [who] took all of the State of Israel upon his shoulders, he sends soldiers to war, he behaves with rare political wisdom, speaks with leaders all the time! Binyamin Netanyahu’s experience, his wisdom, his education!
“[He has] extensive education, university degrees. He also reads books, understands the economy, security, policy, he knows how to speak with leaders of the world! Where is your man? He doesn’t even reach the ankles of my husband, what, did Eli Moyal ever speak once with leaders of the world?! Did he ever do something in his life?
He [Binyamin Netanyahu] is one of the most veteran leaders in the world.
In the United States they say that if he had been born in the US, he’d have been elected president there.”
At one stage Ben Melekh asks Sara Netanyahu: “Why do you think that Eli is jealous of the prime minister?”.
The prime minister’s wife replies: “He is jealous of him because he is so successful, because he is a great leader!! And your man just babbles and babbles.
“I’m just waiting to see if he gives an interview against me … if he does that, he will be subhuman …”
‘Sexist approach’In an interview with the Jerusalem Post and the Hebrew newspaper Maariv, apparently designed to rebuff recent criticism, Sara Netanyahu blamed the recent media focus on her on a campaign by political enemies – foremost among them Noni Mozes, publisher of the mass circulation tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth – and the left wing.
“It’s an elitist and chauvinist approach that blames the woman, that says everything must be the woman’s fault,” she said. “It’s a very sexist approach – a concerted effort to humiliate the prime minister’s wife in her natural role as partner and helpmeet.”
She said the couple had been media targets since 1996 when Netanyahu was first elected as prime minister.
“We were a young couple from the wrong side of the political map, not bad looking, educated, with cute little children. As a journalist once told me: ‘If you had been from the left, you, just as you are, would have been our queen.’”
It seems unlikely, however, that her comments will do much to help dispel the image some have of her as grandiose, somewhat paranoid and lacking in judgment.
‘Hero of the Jewish people’Elsewhere in the interview Sara Netanyahu appeared to echo the sentiments from the taped tirade.
“He’s a hero not only of the Jewish people, but of people everywhere who feel themselves part of the free world, people who oppose the horrors that Islamic State is inflicting and Iran’s nuclear plans. I see my relationship with him as a great responsibility.”
Commenting on allegations made by their former housekeeper regarding her behaviour, she compared her and her husband’s situation to the British TV drama Downton Abbey.
“It’s the idea that some people earn their livelihood by throwing dirt on other people, their reputations – and not just anyone, but someone who you worked for, who was by your side. “If you’re unhappy at work, why not just leave? Why do you have to spit into the well you drank from? What kind of person does something like that? I can’t help thinking of the BBC drama Downton Abbey, with its upstairs/downstairs intrigue, scheming staff and the bubbling cauldron of endless gossip.” © 2015 Guardian News and Media Ltd.
This article first appeared on The Guardian.
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