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Critic temporarily barred from representing the ministry

Foreign ministry official chided for comments on ‘First Lady’ Sara Netanyahu

Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben tells a reporter that Prime Minister’s Office apparently invented the term, which doesn’t officially exist in Israel

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US Vice President Mike Pence, 2nd left, and his wife Karen, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2nd right, and his wife Sara during a ceremony at the remembrance hall at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, on January 23, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Yad Vashem)
US Vice President Mike Pence, 2nd left, and his wife Karen, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2nd right, and his wife Sara during a ceremony at the remembrance hall at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, on January 23, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Yad Vashem)

A senior Foreign Ministry official was summoned for a dressing-down after he gave an unauthorized interview during which he cast doubts over the use of the title “First Lady” to describe the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu during the recent visit of US Vice President Mike Pence.

Meron Reuben, chief of state protocol at the Foreign Ministry, was summoned for a meeting with the ministry’s director general Yuval Rotem during which he was told to “keep a low profile” until the matter has been fully reviewed, Hadashot News reported Wednesday.

Reuben was told that he should not represent the ministry in any official ceremonies until the matter of his interview with Haaretz reporter Nir Gontarz has been fully examined, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returns to the country from a trip to Davos.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, together with Chief of State Protocol at the Foreign Ministry Meron Reuben, as the ambassador arrived in Israel, May 15, 2017. (Foreign Ministry spokesperson)

In a report published by Haaretz on Wednesday Gontarz had quizzed Reuben over the use of the term “First Lady” to present Sara Netanyahu at events and ceremonies during Pence’s visit earlier this week, as there is no formal title of “First Lady” in Israel.

Gontarz specializes in “gotcha” journalism, often publishing his full conversations with politicians and public officials.

During their Hebrew conversation Reuben said that, to his knowledge, the only terms used to describe the spouses of the prime minister or president of Israel are “‘the prime minister’s wife’ and ‘the president’s wife.'”

“We don’t have a First, Second or Third Lady,” Reuben continued, according to the Haaretz report. “Maybe the Prime Minister’s Office has begun using new terms. I don’t recall signing anything that has ‘First Lady’ written on it, unless it refers to the wife of the president of the United States.”

Sara Netanyahu is a controversial figure in Israel, frequently accused of meddling in the prime minister’s decisions.

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