Sara Netanyahu’s virtual tour of PM’s Residence
Video released just prior to state comptroller’s report on first family’s use of public funds
Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has released a new viral campaign video, and the timing could not be more obvious.
A day before Israel’s state comptroller is set to issue a report on an investigation into allegations of excessive spending and misappropriation of state funds by Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at the official Prime Minister’s Residence, we are suddenly invited (virtually, of course) into that well-guarded house on Jerusalem’s Smolenskin Street.
The Netanyahus have called on TV celebrity interior designer Moshik Galamin to inspect the premises and give his professional opinion. To his horror, Galamin discovers, as he is guided around for 15 minutes by Mrs. Netanyahu, that the residence is in serious disrepair. The plaster is crumbling and the paint is peeling due to dampness. Oriental rugs are threadbare. The stained sofa in the living room (which President Obama had to sit on) was reupholstered last year. The garden outside is grass-less.
The video is here (Hebrew).
But the absolute worst is the rundown kitchen badly in need of updating. Galamin takes one disgusted look at the peeling laminate on the cupboards and the broken oven handle and declares, “This looks like the kitchen of a Romanian orphanage from 1954!”
The Netanyahus would have the Israeli public believe that with the sorry state of the official PM’s Residence, they could not possibly be living high off the hog at taxpayers’ expense.
It’s a nice try, but there’s a glitch: State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s report will not deal with the state of the official residence, but rather with expenses unrelated to the physical plant, such as flights, catering and alcoholic beverages, and flower arrangements.
For instance, Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni has charged that the Prime Minister’s Office under Netanyahu consumed a minimum wage’s worth of alcohol — some NIS 4,300 — each month. And in what has been dubbed “Bottlegate,” Sara Netanyahyu has been accused of pocketing thousand of shekels from the recycling of bottles used at the residence. As far back as February 2013, the public was wondering why the prime minister was being budgeted NIS 10,000 a month for high-end ice cream — especially Netanyahu’s favorite pistachio flavor.
It can be assumed that this filmed house tour (a 2015 Israeli approximation of Jackie Kennedy’s televised White House tour back in 1962?) is also meant to soften Sara Netanyahu’s image as she battles allegations in a civil suit by the former custodian at the Prime Minister’s Residence and testimony from other former employees that she is abusive and prone to angry drunken outbursts.
With almost 317,000 views in half a day, it can be assumed that this house tour video is making the social media rounds among the Netanyahus’ detractors, as well as their supporters.
Zahava Gal-on, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, sarcastically bemoaned the “sorry” state of the Prime Minister’s Residence. “Poor things — any minute I’m going to call the welfare authorities,” she wrote on Facebook.
Gal-on, however, was absolutely serious when she challenged Netanyahu to explain what exactly happened to the NIS 497,000 that was budgeted this past year for upkeep of the residence.
“When I say ‘explain,’ I mean to police investigators,” she wrote.
Perhaps not all Israelis are ready to attack the prime minister so boldly about this. But if average citizens are doing their best to keep their homes in good repair without the help of public monies, we are left to wonder why the Netanyahus are letting their home get so run down when they apparently do have the funds to have Galamin come over any time to do his makeover magic.