The Oliver twist

John Oliver takes on Netanyahu cases

Comedian mocks PM’s ‘absolutely ridiculous’ efforts to ‘spin use of public funds,’ slams Anne Frank joke in video tour of official residence

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Comedian John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” on Sunday took Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, to task over allegations that they are corrupt.

While the prime minister has denied bribery allegations amid police recommendations that he be indicted in two cases, one of which is said to involve hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigar and champagne, “Netanyahu and his wife do have famously extravagant tastes,” Oliver noted.

Sara Netanyahu has been “dubbed Israel’s Marie Antoinette,” he said, referring to the wife of the last French king Louis XVI, who gained the name “Madame Deficit” because of her lavish spending. The epithet was, joked Oliver, “both a harsh criticism and an objectively chic bat mitzvah theme.”

The British comedian then reminded viewers that over the years, the Netanyahus have also been accused of spending $1,700 of public funds on scented candles and $2,700 on high-end ice cream.

In 2013, Oliver went on, the prime minister spent $127,000 of taxpayers’ money installing a double bed on an El Al plane that would take him and his wife on the five-hour journey to attend the funeral of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

“I do kind of get it, ” he joked. “You go to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral and afterwards, you’re gonna be all worked up and ready to fuck!”

Mocking “the Netanyahus’ efforts to spin their use of public funds” in the past as “absolutely ridiculous,” Oliver showed footage from 2015 of Sara Netanyahu giving a celebrity interior designer a tour of the prime minister’s official residence focusing on the building’s state of disrepair.

That video was released just a day before the state comptroller was due to issue a report on a probe into allegations of excessive spending and misappropriation of state funds by the couple. During the tour, the designer, Moshik Galamin, explores a closet and jokes that he thinks Anne Frank is hiding in the back.

“Wow!” exclaimed Oliver, saying he couldn’t believe that nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office had suggested cutting “the Anne Frank joke.”

Child Holocaust victim Frank wrote a diary about life in hiding from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. She died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945.

Last Tuesday, police recommended charging Prime Minister Netanyahu in two graft cases.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of cigars, champagne and other benefits from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Milchan and Australian resort owner Packer.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

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