The siege of the beauty salon by protesters on Wednesday night, accompanied by chants of “shame, shame,” cast a spotlight on Ms. Netanyahu, a divisive figure long intertwined with her husband’s political career.
She has gained scorn for a reputation for living a lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense — an image only reinforced by her decision to get her hair cut in the center of a city ravaged by unrest that first erupted Wednesday. became violent.
Israelis have also accused Ms. Netanyahu, a former flight attendant turned educational psychologist, of exerting undue influence and pressuring Netanyahu on political nominations and policy issues.
Here’s a look at what made it Netanyahu‘s wife so controversial for some three decades on the political scene.
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Ms. Netanyahu, 64, has made sensational headlines over the years for embezzling public funds, overspending on household expenses and carrying gifts from world leaders, among other things. In 2019, she accepted a plea 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, even though she already had chefs on the government’s payroll. She has also become entangled in Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which has accelerated the country’s years-long political crisis.
In exchange for political favors, Netanyahu reportedly accepted gifts from billionaire friends, including tens of thousands of dollars in cases of champagne and extravagant jewelry for Ms. Netanyahu, and made backroom deals with newspaper publishers to get more favorable coverage of his wife. He denies all wrongdoing. Recently, a parliamentary committee approved new spending money for the Netanyahus, including an annual increase of thousands of dollars in clothing and makeup spending for Ms. Netanyahu.
“The general feeling is that this is a very greedy bunch,” said Israeli journalist Amir Oren. “It does have a kind of Marie Antoinette vibe.”
Over the years, Ms. Netanyahu’s domestic worker has consistently accused her of explosive diatribes and assault. In one instance, a leaked phone call surfaced from Ms. Netanyahu yelling at her publicist about how a gossip column failed to list her educational credentials. In another story, the family’s nanny said Ms. Netanyahu fired her for burning a pot of soup and kicking her to the sidewalk with no clothes or passport.
Two housekeepers have won damages in lawsuits accusing Ms Netanyahu of taking their lives. In court testimony, one of them revealed Ms. Netanyahu’s fondness for pink champagne and other expensive luxuries. Friends and staff have shared stories over the years of Ms. Netanyahu’s extreme outbursts and unhealthy obsession with cleanliness. Netanyahu’s family has portrayed themselves as the victims of a press war. They filed a libel suit against Ehud Olmert, a former prime minister, after he described them as “mentally ill”.
TO DIVIDE THE TASKS?
Critics from Netanyahu’s family have accused Ms Netanyahu of interfering in the prime minister’s decision-making. Former officials recently testified in court that Ms. Netanyahu exerted undue influence over top security appointments. In January, a retired general testified that Ms. Netanyahu interviewed him for 45 minutes for the post of military secretary to the prime minister after Netanyahu left the room. “In recent years there has not been a senior official who has not been interviewed or influenced by Sara,” he said Gayil Talshirprofessor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
She is accused of pushing Netanyahu further to the right and helping propel his administration’s determination to overhaul the country’s judiciary — a plan that has sparked some of the largest protests in Israeli history and widespread condemnation. has led throughout Israeli society and around the world.
Given her past legal troubles, critics argue, she has as much interest in the government’s plan to weaken the justice system as her husband. Ms. Netanyahu and her son, Yair – another lightning rod for controversy – have repeatedly incited Israel’s “elites” – the media, the bureaucrats, the officials. Netanyahu insists his wife stay out of state affairs.
BAD HAIR DAY
Because of Ms. Netanyahu’s public profile, the opposition claims she is not just a first lady, but rather a legitimate political target for the protest movement. Yair Golana former general and former MP from the Meretz party, told Kan radio that “with all due respect, Sarah Netanyahu is a political figure” and is involved in important appointments and decisions.
But the dramatic scenes of the police, secret service and helicopters called in to pull Ms. Netanyahu out of her hairdressing appointment changed the course of “the day of disruption”. Netanyahu posted a photo on Twitter showing him hugging his wife late at night as she returned home safely, warning that such “anarchy” would result in the loss of life.
The incident, which made headlines even after police shocked the country by firing water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas at pro-democracy protesters, once again showed Netanyahu to be a master political manipulator, Talshir said. “He managed to play it well and paint his wife as the real victim of yesterday’s protest,” she said. “But from the protesters’ point of view, Sara has been crucial in dividing the country and turning it into autocracy.”