Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday defended his wife, after she caused an uproar by discarding a piece of traditional Ukrainian bread during a welcoming ceremony at Kyiv airport on Sunday evening.
Sara Netanyahu drew criticism in Israel and Ukraine on Monday, after a video of the welcome ceremony showed her refusing to eat a piece of “Karavai” bread, proffered as a token of respect and instead dropping it on the ground in front of her hosts.
In a video message Monday evening, Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed critics and noted her yellow dress had been chosen to honor Ukraine.
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פורסם על ידי Dmitri Doubov ב- יום ראשון, 18 באוגוסט 2019
“The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff said that it is clear that Mrs. Netanyahu had no intention to disrespect Ukraine,” Netanyahu said.
He added that his wife had been “wearing clothes with the national colors of Ukraine, yellow and blue, precisely to respect the country.”
He then repeated a common claim by him that the media does not adequately cover his diplomatic meetings with foreign leaders, despite the fact that many Israeli journalists were in Ukraine, covering the visit in full.
“If this is what’s needed for this visit, which brings with it an extended free trade agreement and a Ukrainian office in Jerusalem and more important things, [to be covered] then so be it,” Netanyahu said.
“I doubt this historic visit would have gotten this media upgrading without the bread incident,” he argued, recalling another case last year in which a diplomatic fumble overshadowed a diplomatic visit.
“It reminds me that also during the Japanese prime minister’s historic visit to Israel, which brought with it a huge promotion of Japanese investments in Israel, nobody covered it — except for the fact that the dessert was served in a shoe-shaped dish,” he said.
Members of the Japanese delegation were offended by the footwear food at the time.
“So what can I say, I think we have found the way and we will continue with it,” Netanyahu joked.
Sara Netanyahu has not responded to the affair, or an earlier one in which she was reported to have angrily attempted to storm the cockpit on the flight to Ukraine after the captain’s welcome announcement did not mention her. According to Chanel 12 news, security guards had to hold her back and, after some discussion, the captain again took to the speakers to mention her.
The Prime Minister’s Office dismissed that report as “distorted and biased,” saying there had been a “misunderstanding that was immediately clarified.”
The prime minister’s two-day trip to Ukraine is seen as a bid to drum up support among Russian-speaking voters ahead of general elections in Israel next month.
Netanyahu’s working visit to Ukraine is the first by an Israeli prime minister since he traveled to the country during his first term in March 1999. He is also the first foreign leader to visit Kyiv since Volodymyr Zelensky, a former actor with no previous political experience, was elected president in April.