Why did Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife’s visit to the salon spark controversy?

The scene signaled a grave national emergency – dozens of riot police charged through the streets of Tel Aviv as crowds of anti-government protesters shouted and roared. Their mission: to rescue the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a swanky salon where she was getting her hair cut.

The beauty parlor siege by protesters chanting “shame, shame” on Wednesday night put Mrs Netanyahu in the spotlight, a divisive figure who has long been at odds with her husband’s political career.

She has disdain for a reputation for living a lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense – an image only reinforced by her decision to get her hair done in the heart of the unrest-wracked city, which turned violent for the first time on Wednesday .

Israelis have also accused Mrs. Netanyahu, a former air hostess-turned-educational psychologist, of exerting undue influence on Netanyahu, exerting pressure on him over political appointments and policy issues.

Here’s a look at what has made Netanyahu’s wife so controversial in her nearly three decades on the political stage.

hey, big spender

Mrs Netanyahu, 64, has made sensational headlines over the years for allegedly embezzling public funds, spending lavishly on household expenses and grabbing gifts from world leaders. In 2019, she accepted a plea deal to settle allegations that she misused $100,000 in public funds to order lavish meals from celebrity chefs at the prime minister’s official residence, although she was already a cook on the government payroll. She is also embroiled in Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which has sparked the country’s years-long political crisis.

In return for political favors, Netanyahu reportedly accepted gifts from billionaire friends, including thousands of dollars in boxes of champagne and extravagant jewelry for Mrs. Netanyahu, and newspaper appearances with the aim of obtaining more favorable coverage for his wife. Made behind-the-scenes deals with publishers. He denies all wrongdoing. Recently, a parliamentary committee approved new spending money for Netanyahu, including an increase in Mrs. Netanyahu’s clothing and makeup expenses by thousands of dollars each year.

Israeli journalist Amir Oren said, “The general impression is that this is a very greedy couple.” “It has a kind of Marie Antoinette vibe.”

temper tantrums

For years, Mrs Netanyahu’s domestic helper has consistently accused her of explosive atrocities and abuse. In one case, a leaked phone conversation emerged of Mrs. Netanyahu yelling at her publicist about how her educational credentials were not mentioned in a gossip column. In another, the family’s nanny said Mrs. Netanyahu fired her for burning a pot of soup, kicked out into the street without clothes or a passport.

Two domestic workers have won damages in lawsuits accusing Mrs Netanyahu of making their lives miserable. In court testimony, one of them revealed Mrs Netanyahu’s taste for pink champagne and other expensive luxuries. Over the years, friends and staff have shared details about Mrs. Netanyahu’s extreme anger and unhealthy obsession with cleanliness. Netanyahu’s family has portrayed themselves as casualties of a press war. She filed a defamation lawsuit against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after he described him as “mentally ill”.

calling the shots?

Critics of Netanyahu’s family have accused Mrs. Netanyahu of interfering in the prime minister’s decision-making. Former officials recently testified in court that Mrs Netanyahu exerted undue influence over top security appointments. In January, a retired general testified that Mrs. Netanyahu interviewed him for the job of military secretary to the prime minister for 45 minutes after Netanyahu had left the room. “For the past few years, there hasn’t been a senior official appointment who wasn’t interviewed or influenced by Sarah,” said Gail Talshir, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He has been accused of helping to push Netanyahu further to the right and drive his government’s determination to make radical changes to the country’s judiciary – a plan that has sparked some of the biggest protests in Israel’s history. has inspired and drawn widespread condemnation from throughout Israeli society and around the world.

Given her past legal troubles, critics argue, she has as much stake in the government’s plan to undermine the court system as her husband. Mrs Netanyahu and her son, Yair – likewise a lightning rod for controversy – have repeatedly railed against Israel’s “elite” – the media, bureaucrats, civil servants. Netanyahu insists that his wife stay out of state affairs.

bad hair day

Due to Mrs Netanyahu’s public profile, the opposition argues that she is not only the First Lady – but a legitimate political target for the protest movement. Yair Golan, a former general and one-time lawmaker from the Meretz party, told Cannes radio that “with all due respect, Sara Netanyahu is a political figure” and is involved in key appointments and decisions.

Yet dramatic scenes of police forces, the Secret Service and helicopters being called in to remove Mrs Netanyahu from her hair appointment changed the course of the “day of disruption”. Netanyahu posted a photo on Twitter that showed him hugging his wife late at night. She returned home safely and warned that such “anarchy” would result in loss of life.

The incident, which made headlines even after police stunned the nation by firing water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas at pro-democracy protesters, once again exposed Netanyahu as a master political manipulator, Talshir said. “He managed to play it off well while presenting his wife as the real victim of yesterday’s protests,” she said. “But from the point of view of the protesters, Sarah has been instrumental in dividing the country and turning it towards autocracy.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button