American Magazine Vanity Fair published in its July issue an article dedicated to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the people surrounding him, including his wife, Sara.
The piece, titled "The Netanyahu Paradox," begins with a depiction of the Shivah (seven days of mourning) that followed the death of Shmuel Ben-Artzi, Netanyahu's father-in-law.
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"Most of the Israeli establishment showed up at the Bauhaus home in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem: Members of the Cabinet and Knesset, security officials, rabbis, businessmen, journalists, supplicants of all stripes, 'everyone who didn’t want to get in any trouble,' as one participant put it," wrote David Margolick.
"The guest registry also included Sheldon Adelson, the ubiquitous gambling magnate, and Ronald Lauder, an heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune—a pair of American billionaires who, improbably, have also become major Israeli media moguls," Margolick noted, adding that "many of the guests had come primarily for Sara Netanyahu…Here, too, it was not so much out of love or respect, but fear.
"Even Bibi couldn’t stray very far, though he had other pressing business—like a memorial service commemorating the 1995 assassination of the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. So, there he was, at his wife’s insistence, sticking around for the whole week, periodically reading her late father’s poetry aloud to the mourners in a way that elicited pity even from his detractors. 'I have no choice,' lamented one tycoon about his reasons for coming. 'She’s running the show here in Israel. She can make or break anyone.'"
In the article, Margolick conducts a series of interviews in an effort to decipher the secret of the first lady's power. " It’s amazing how many otherwise sane Israelis see her Lady Macbeth–like hand in every corner of her husband’s life and work—whom he hires, what he does and doesn’t do, whom he can and cannot see," he writes.
"One hears constantly that Sara 'has something' on her husband, stemming from her decision to stick by him after the highly publicized affair to which he admitted early in their marriage when his political career hung in the balance. One also hears of a supposed contract between the two of them, said to have been drafted by a former attorney general of Israel, squirreled away in some safe. Or of Bibi cowering in the bathroom, calling the childhood friends of his whom she has excommunicated."
The author claims that there are two Bibis: "First, there’s Bibi the statesman, the Israeli Churchill, seeking immortality, versus Bibi the politician, seeking survival. Then there’s the American Bibi versus the Israeli Bibi. The American Bibi is articulate, confident, charismatic… The Israeli Bibi, by contrast, can be accident-prone, panicky, deceptive, disloyal, and, as his own father—who found frequent fault with him—noted, indecisive."
Margolick also notes that the prime minister "governs by improvisation, picks people poorly, goes through them fast. And he’s suggestible: an inordinate number of people say he tends to agree with the last person he has met."
In an interview with Netanyahu, the prime minsiter lamented the way Israeli press treated his wife, calling it a "great injustice." Netanyahu added that people are "shocked to meet her, and to discover she’s completely different from how she is depicted. Quite the opposite of pulling him to the right, Sara’s views, he said, are 'strongly, adamantly centrist.' The Israeli press attacks her, he suggested, only because it can’t lay a glove on him," Margolick wrote.
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