PM’s wife says she’s been battered, experienced ‘sexual violence’ from protests

Sara Netanyahu says she fears for her life, and urges all to condemn threats; womens’ group head accuses her of cheapening actual domestic violence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the swearing in ceremony of the 23rd government in the Knesset on May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the swearing in ceremony of the 23rd government in the Knesset on May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)

Sara Netanyahu on Wednesday claimed she experienced “sexual violence” from demonstrators rallying against the premier, while branding herself and her children as “battered.”

In a rare interview with Channel 12, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, “I am a battered woman and my children are battered,” referring to the growing protest movement calling for the resignation of Israel’s longest-serving leader, who is currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

She also rejected media speculation about her health as “fake news.”

Sara Netanyahu on Tuesday filed a police complaint against alleged sexual harassment by protesters, citing sexually explicit slogans and symbols waved at the demonstrations outside their Jerusalem residence, as well as threats to harm her.

“I certainly feel that I have experienced sexual violence,” she said Wednesday, noting “the terrible march of the balloons [shaped like sex organs] and the [social media] post to rape me, which used explicit and crass language.”

Phallic balloons carried at a demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, August 2020 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Hagit Peer, the head of the Naamat women’s group, criticized Netanyahu, who is a psychologist by profession, for using the term “battered woman.”

“Mrs. Netanyahu is not a battered woman. This is a cheapening of the concept and Mrs. Netanyahu, who has visited women’s shelters in the past, knows this,” she told Channel 12.

Workers from the culture and art industry protest outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in jerusalem, on August 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Netanyahus have recently complained of threats of murder as the weekly protests against the prime minister’s corruption cases and handling of the coronavirus pandemic have swelled to include tens of thousands of demonstrators.

Sara Netanyahu said the demonstrators were “hooligans” and “anarchists… who shout Death to Bibi and Sara,” relieve themselves in the neighborhood, and come to the protests under the influence of drugs.

The prime minister and some of his allies have repeatedly sought to portray the demonstrators as violent and as anarchists, and several people have been arrested for  allegedly threatening the premier.

The prime minister’s wife said she expected wall-to-wall condemnation of the threats against her and her family, including from left-wing lawmakers.

Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on August 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The condemnation of what they did to me must come from all women, all men. It must come from all sides. I would expect the MKs who tut-tut over women’s rights, like [Meretz MK Tamar] Zandberg and [Labor MK Merav] Michaeli, to also speak out against it.”

“I don’t wish upon… anyone who is watching, or any of the TV stations — which support these protests — the things they are writing about me and my children,” she continued. “They describe how they will murder us. I read about how they’ll dismember my children, terrible things. So why don’t I hear condemnation?”

The prime minister’s wife claimed she felt unsafe and was concerned about her welfare.

“The security is not so tight,” she said. “Don’t forget that I’m not home all the time. I’m not protected like the prime minister, who has more security. I’m not protected like Defense Minister Gantz. A few weeks ago, at one of the violent rallies, they really tried to fire torches at our home and broke the legs of a police investigator.”

During rioting that took place during an anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem on July 14, two men (19 and 29) beat an officer, who required subsequent treatment for a serious leg injury, police said. They were later arrested. It was unclear what incidents of torches being shot at the residence she was referring to.

Recent weeks have also seen some incidents of violence by right-wing supporters of Netanyahu. Protesters have also accused police of using excessive force during the demonstrations.

Thousands protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on August 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Netanyahu has also protested media coverage of the protests, which he claims blow them out of proportion.

However, in an interview earlier this month, the Netanyahus’ son Yair said he and his father found the costumes and displays amusing.

“I try not to show him too-crass things from the protests, because in the end it is unpleasant, but you know, it entertains him, the truth is that it even gives him some strength,” Yair Netanyahu said on August 3.

The boisterous rallies have brought out a new breed of first-time protesters — young, middle-class Israelis who have little history of political activity but feel that Netanyahu’s scandal-plagued rule and his handling of the coronavirus crisis have robbed them of their futures. The prime minister is currently on trial for corruption in three probes, but denies any wrongdoing.

Several loose-knit movements have joined forces to portray Netanyahu as an out-of-touch leader, with the country’s most bloated government in history and seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax benefits for himself at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is raging and unemployment has soared to over 20 percent.

With the focus in Jerusalem, smaller protests have been held across the country.

Agencies contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed