Israeli premier jokes about latest scandal
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown a rare light side by appearing on a popular TV satirical show on which he joked about the latest scandal tainting Israel’s first family.
Last week, a former member of his housekeeping staff, Meni Naftalli, filed a lawsuit claiming he was mistreated and verbally abused by Netanyahu’s wife, Sara. In one instance, Naftali alleged Sara Netanyahu had called him at 3 a.m. to complain that he had bought milk in a plastic storage bag instead of a carton.
On Sunday night’s “State of the Nation” TV show, Netanyahu asked the panel for a cappuccino with milk from a bag, in a joking reference to the allegation.
Netanyahu also defended his wife, saying it’s not easy being married to the prime minister and calling Sara “the source of my strength.”
Those who regularly hear Prime Minister Binyain Netanyahu’s speeches in the Knesset know he has a way with a zinger, often making off-the-cuff sarcastic comments to the opposition, and the prime minister was no different on satirical TV program “State of the Nation” Sunday night.
Netanyahu took advantage of his appearance to reaffirm ties to the US despite controversial remarks by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, responding to the Channel 2 show’s four hosts’ Orna Banai, Einav Galili, Guri Alfi and Lior Schleien with jibes of his own.
“The reason Netanyahu looks fat in photos is because Ya’alon and [Justice Minister Tzipi] Livni are pulling him in two different directions,” Schleien quipped.
“We all know what it’s like to be on a diet,” Netanyahu said. “Some of us need a word diet…Sometimes we need to act more, talk less.”
On a more serious note, the prime minister added that friends can disagree with each other, but the connection between the US and Israel is strong, and he is committed to keeping it that way. At the same time, he added, Israel has the right to defend itself with or without its allies.
Netanyahu, who appeared on the show in an open-collared white shirt and navy blazer, also vacillated between funny and serious when the topic of his wife arose.
When Schleien asked him what he’d like to drink, Netanyahu responded “coffee with milk from a bag,” referring to the lawsuit against him and his wife, Sarah, by former Prime Minister’s Residence superintendent Manny Naftali, who claimed the prime minister’s wife refused to use milk from a bag and not a carton.
“Some people say being the prime minister is the hardest job, but apparently being the wife of this prime minister is the real hardest job in the world. Not everyone could withstand her name being sullied like this,” Netanyahu said in defense of his wife. “People don’t understand that she is the source of my strength. I love her.”
Netanyahu ended his plea for people to leave his wife alone with a dig at Schleien, the longtime partner of MK Merav Michaeli (Labor): “Watch out, maybe you’ll be a prime minister’s wife one day.”
“I expected that attack, but I wasn’t sure it would actually happen, like with Iran,” Schleien retorted.
The prime minister made another joke about Schleien and Michaeli’s relationship, saying that if they would move in together, instead of in separate apartments in the same building, a home would be freed up and help solve the housing crisis.
When Schleien jokingly thanked Netanyahu for building in settlements, the prime minister expressed hope that he wouldn’t be thrown out of Tel Aviv.
“He’ll be thrown out of a certain house,” Alfi said.
Netanyahu also refused to entertain guesses about his candidate for the presidency.
“Likud has two candidates – [Water and Energy Minister] Silvan Shalom and MK Reuven Rivlin. Who will you vote for, Fuad [MK Binyamin Ben Eliezer (Labor)] or [retired Supreme Court justice] Dalia Dorner?” Schleien asked.
“You’re awful!” was the prime minister’s response.
Netanyahu concluded by declaring that he is “proud to be the prime minister of the one and only country of the Jewish people, and will keep protecting it.”
“Good luck to us,” Schleien remarked.