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Netanyahus said to bring suitcases of laundry from Israel to wash at White House

PM denies ‘recycled’ rumors after Washington Post reports he and wife Sara repeatedly brought soiled clothes to be laundered, dry cleaned when staying at US president’s guesthouse

US President Donald Trump (L) and First Lady Melania Trump welcome the arrival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife, Sara, on the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on September 15, 2020. (Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)
US President Donald Trump (L) and First Lady Melania Trump welcome the arrival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife, Sara, on the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on September 15, 2020. (Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on multiple occasions brought with them from Israel suitcases of clothes to be laundered and dry cleaned while staying at the White House guesthouse, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. Netanyahu’s office said the story was untrue.

The story reinforces earlier claims dating back a decade that the Netanyahus prefer to deal with their dirty laundry overseas following similar disclosures from a top former aide-turned-state’s witness in the Netanyahu corruption trials.

Visitors staying at the White House guesthouse routinely get their laundry taken care of as a perk, but it usually only consists of a shirt or two, given their brief stays. “The Netanyahus are the only ones who bring actual suitcases of dirty laundry for us to clean,” the Washington Post quoted a US official as saying. “After multiple trips, it became clear this was intentional.”

Netanyahu’s office denied the report.

“This is recycled anonymous slander from the archives of the Israeli media aimed at blotting out the historic peace agreements brought about by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump,” it said.

The Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, also issued a statement, telling the Post that “these groundless and absurd allegations are aimed at belittling Prime Minister Netanyahu’s monumental achievement in Tuesday’s historic peace summit brokered by President Trump at the White House.”

It noted that during the visit, in which normalization deals were signed with the UAE and Bahrain, “there was no dry cleaning, only a couple shirts were laundered for the public meeting, and the Prime Minister’s suit and Mrs. Netanyahu’s dress were ironed also for the public meeting.”

(L-R)Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan pose with the signed Abraham Accords, September 15, 2020 (White House screenshot)

“Oh yes, a pair of pajamas that the Prime Minister wore on the 12-hour flight from Israel to Washington was also laundered,” the embassy said.

The report said US officials noted that the Netanyahus’ requests were modest on the last trip, but were not on several previous visits. The report cited both political and career officials spanning the Trump and Obama administrations.

Reports that the Netanyahus like to do their laundry abroad date back to the investigation into alleged misuse of state funds by the Netanyahu family.

The investigation unearthed transcripts of recordings from 2010 conversations between a former close confidant of the family, Nir Hefetz, and the Prime Minister’s Office’s top legal adviser, Shlomit Barnea Farago, in which the two officials discussed allegedly inappropriate uses of public funds by the premier and his wife.

Nir Hefetz appears in a Tel Aviv court on February 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The recordings were made by Hefetz, a spokesman for the family who has since turned state’s witness.

The two are heard in the tapes discussing what they termed “greedy” demands made by Sara Netanyahu for the state to fund landscaping work at the Netanyahus’ private home in Caesarea, among other expenditures, as well as the need to “protect the prime minister” from becoming “mixed up” in the alleged misappropriation of public funds.

In the transcripts, Hefetz at one point describes to Barnea Farago how Sara Netanyahu allegedly would take four or five suitcases of dirty laundry on state trips so that they could send it for dry cleaning at hotels where they stayed, paid for by the state.

“That’s misuse of public money, to bring laundry that isn’t used on the trip just so it can be dry-cleaned,” he said.

On one occasion mentioned in the transcripts, Sara Netanyahu was said to have taken eight suitcases of dirty laundry on an overseas trip for dry-cleaning abroad. Hefetz and Barnea Farago discussed why she would do that, when the state budget covers unlimited dry cleaning expenses, and speculated that she “likes the smell” of the clothes after foreign dry cleaning.

In June 2019, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing public funds as part of a plea deal in a case involving allegations she illegally procured and then misreported catering services at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The agreement saw her escape a conviction for aggravated fraud, but plead guilty to a lesser charge of taking advantage of a mistake. She was ordered to pay NIS 55,000 ($15,210) to the state — NIS 10,000 as a fine and the rest as restitution.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

The prime minister, meanwhile, is currently on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. The accusations include accepting some $200,000 in gifts such as cigars and champagne from two billionaires, Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer, known as Case 1000.

In Case 2000 and Case 4000 Netanyahu is also accused of offering to push legislation benefiting powerful Israeli media moguls in exchange for more positive coverage in their publications.

Netanyahu has denied accusations in all three cases, alleging he is a victim of a conspiracy by the press, law enforcement and the legal system to unseat him.

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