Monday, March 24, 2014

Is Sara Netanyahu's conduct affecting PM's performance?

Op-ed: When our prime minister doesn’t sleep at 3 am, it should be because of red phone, not because he has to take care of a bag of milk.  

The affair revealed last week by Meni Naftali, the former caretaker at the prime minister's official residence, did not knock a single person who is somehow involved in the political system off his or her feet – including the media and every editor and reporter.
We hear the type of stories told by Naftali, and much worse stories, on an almost daily basis. And not just from a nanny or a housekeeper, but from the closest people to the Netanyahu couple – ministers, advisors, spokespeople, former friends.

So when a person who worked at the prime minister's residence for 20 months comes out and talks about the conduct of the prime minister's wife and the backing she receives from the prime minister, we are not surprised, and we don't doubt him either, especially because this time we are talking about the man who is the salt of the earth, an elite unit fighter, a security guard who received a high security classification and excellence awards. This time these things cannot be swept under the rug – and not just because Mrs. Netanyahu is obsessed with dirt. 

The descriptions provided by Naftali point to a regular pattern, that same element judges always look for among serial criminals. That degrading pattern, arrogant attitude, unrestrained tongue-lashing by Sara Netanyahu, the outbursts, insults and humiliation her workers are subject to. Those unreasonable demands, a bottomless pit which can never be satisfied, and this time troubling racist statements were also revealed. 
The prime minister has turned to the media more than once, asking that his wife and children be left alone. When he does that, there is an expression on his face which creates empathy among quite a few people. A sort of personal, touching appeal from a person defending his loved ones with his own body against the bad guys' harm. And the Israeli public loves it – the person who jumps on the grenade to save his comrades. The fact is that despite these troubling stories, which in a different country would have already brought the leader down, here people go on voting for the Netanyahu couple again and again. 

Time to speak up

But it's time to shatter this lie. Those complaining about Sara Netanyahu's behavior are not the bad guys in this story. The media outlets covering these cases are not the bad guys either. And what happens in the prime minister's residence is not gossip. When a prime minister talks to his caretaker at 3 am and asks him to satisfy his wife's whims – this time to replace milk in a plastic bag with a carton of milk – it's not a couple's problem. And by the way, Mr. Netanyahu, as opposed to the impression you are trying to create, this is not normative, regular behavior either, one that can be found in every house. Absolutely not. 
Yes, yes, let's call a spade a spade here too: What is happening in our prime minister's residence is not normal, and it's impossible that this does affect his performance. If the caretaker talks about "physical and mental damage," it's impossible that these things just pass by Netanyahu's head. The staff turnover at the prime minister's residence, the atmosphere, the pressure, the irrational behavior we are being exposed to once again – it's a matter which should be of great interest to the public. 
We want to know that when the prime minister doesn’t sleep at 3 am it's because of the red phone, not because he has to take care of a bag of milk. And no one can convince us that the prime minister's performance is intact the next morning. Even the strongest person is affected when his closest surroundings is unstable. Imagine how each and every one of us would function after a nightmarish night with our partner. 

But these comments are not directed at Benjamin Netanyahu. Neither are they directed at the media, which are finding it difficult to publish what they know because of legal issues, even if they wanted to. They are directed at those ministers, advisors, assistants, former friends, and all kinds of associates who have closely witnessed what is happening at the Netanyahu residence and are failing to reveal what they know. 
We journalists are tired of listening to you tell us, always off the record of course, the stories you know, while making sure – pardon my French – to cover your ass. Get up and talk. Don't wait for the junior workers to do it for you. If our prime minister is not a fully functioning person because of what is happening in his home, and you know about it – you are part of it.  

If the Israeli public is being directly or indirectly harmed by a prime minister who is under an influence – you are partners in crime. It's time for you to speak up. Now, not when the prime minister leaves office and then you'll publish your stories.  
Then it will be a cowardly, miserable act, and most importantly – it will be too late.

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