JERUSALEM (May. 19)
The Israeli media is having a ball. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were again thrust into the tabloid limelight this week in the wake of an unflattering profile that appeared in The New Yorker magazine.
At the heart of the uproar were remarks attributed to Netanyahu’s senior adviser, David Bar-Illan.
Bar Illan was quoted as saying, among other things, that Sara Netanyahu was not the “most stable woman in the world,” adding that her public appearances were being restricted to prevent unfavorable press.
“Now she only appears at the appropriate things, receptions for children, things for the retarded or the disadvantaged,” Bar-Illan was quoted as saying.
Bar-Illan categorically denied having made the remarks, terming the entire matter ridiculous.
Nonetheless, the remarks were seized upon by the Israeli media, which has previously delved into reports about Sara Netanyahu’s purported acrimonious relations with staff, including throwing a shoe at secretary and firing a nanny for burning a pot of soup.
Bar-Illan also was quoted in The New Yorker piece as saying that although Netanyahu may make public appearances at the Western Wall and in synagogues during the holidays to garner support from the religious community, he was not “fooling anyone.” Bar-Illan was also quoted as saying Netanyahu had erred in admitting to marital infidelity.
“One thing is to have an affair with a shiksa — but a married woman! With a shiksa, even the rebbes do it. But a married woman,” Bar-Illan said.
For his part, Netanyahu dismissed the article as “gossip,” adding that “we do not deal with these things.”
The Netanyahus were not the only ones irked by the article. Bar-Illan was also quoted as drawing parallels between attitudes toward marital infidelity in different periods of Israeli history. He said Moshe Dayan, Israel’s former army chief of staff, had slept with half the women in the army, and no one cared at the time.
Those remarks set off Dayan’s daughter, Labor Knesset member Yael Dayan, who demanded that the civil service commissioner summon Bar-Illan for a disciplinary hearing.
“It’s not just that we are talking about the person who happened to be my father,” she said. “In this case, we have a public servant alleging that the chief of staff slept with half of the women’s corps. This is an unacceptable expression.”
The author of the article, David Remnick, stood by his story, saying that he openly took notes during the interview with Bar-Illan, and that it was clear the remarks were for the record.