Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was filmed discarding a piece of traditional Ukrainian bread during a welcoming ceremony at Kyiv airport on Sunday evening, sparking controversy and allegations that she had disrespected her hosts.
As the couple exited the plane and kicked off an official state visit, Netanyahu and his wife were greeted by three young women in traditional attire who offered them a local bread and salt commonly proffered in Slavic countries during official ceremonies as a token of respect.
The premier took a piece of the ‘karavai’ and swallowed it down with little difficulty, but when he gave his wife a second piece, she immediately dropped it onto the tarmac and brushed off her hands as her hosts looked on and cameras snapped away.
Some in Ukraine took umbrage over the grub snub, though most did not get too worked up about it.
И вот еще. На Сару посмотрите на 37-й секунде)
Posted by Dmitri Dubov on Sunday, August 18, 2019
Ukrainian TV anchor for the News One channel called the incident a “scandal.”
“Sara Netanyahu ruined the Ukrainian [welcome] ceremony when she threw a slice of bread with salt to the floor,” the anchor said, according to a translation by Israel’s Channel 12 news.
“Hutzpah,” one person wrote on the Pravda website, while another called her a “fool.”
The incident also received attention on social media.
fkn disrespectful jews!
while visiting Ukraine Netanyahu's wife threw the piece of bread on the ground! we're just a fkng slaves to them. only total retard will spit on traditions of the welcoming country! https://t.co/YQv38stGbt
— Kraken-Elect President of The World (@mcmeisterua) August 19, 2019
Israel’s envoy to Ukraine downplayed the incident.
“President [Volodymyr] Zelensky’s chief of staff said this is not an important incident and is not worthy of media coverage,” Ambassador Joel Lion was quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster.
The episode also drew attention in Israel, where Sara Netanyahu has been often portrayed by the press as petulant and difficult to please.
On Sunday, Israel’s Channel 12 reported that while on board the El Al flight from Tel Aviv, Sara Netanyahu was angered that the captain’s welcome message didn’t make mention of her and demanded she be allowed to enter the cockpit. According to the report, 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.