The son also falls
Hebrew media review

The son also falls

Yair Netanyahu’s locker room talk outside a strip club reflects poorly on his parents, except in Israel Hayom, where it reflects poorly on the press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- seen with his wife, Sara, and their son, Yair --
celebrates his 64th birthday, at the PMO in Jerusalem, October 20, 2013 (Kobi Gideon GPO/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- seen with his wife, Sara, and their son, Yair -- celebrates his 64th birthday, at the PMO in Jerusalem, October 20, 2013 (Kobi Gideon GPO/FLASH90)

Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has gotten into all sorts of trouble in the past year, from sharing an anti-Semitic trope on social media to not picking up dog poop to being accused of slandering a critic. Yet from the look of Israel’s main Hebrew-language daily newspapers Tuesday morning, nothing comes close to his dumb, drunken conversations with other rich, spoiled kids outside a strip club two years ago.

The recordings, aired Monday night by Hadashot news, have the press as excited as a 25-year-old getting a lap dance. With naked enthusiasm, the papers quote Yair asking the son of gas tycoon Koby Maimon for NIS 400 to pay strippers, saying Maimon owed it to him because Netanyahu senior had arranged a NIS 20 billion deal for his dad. Even Netanyahu-backing Israel Hayom can’t help but look, though it dances around Yair’s exploits and instead goes on a full-frontal attack against the press for seeing the prime minister’s son as an “attractive target.”

And what a massive bull’s eye he has made of himself.

Both Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz let Yair do the talking on their front pages, with large pull quotes of some of his juiciest remarks laid bare, especially the one about trying to parlay the controversial gas deal.

But Yair isn’t the only one opening his mouth, as pundits make it rain with words up the wazoo about the spoiled son and what the whole sordid affair says about his parents and their chances of staying in power.

Haaretz’s front page has no fewer than four columnists speaking out, and headlines like Yossi Verter’s “The fallen prince,” and Alon Idan’s “the disgusting soul,” as well as the repetition of the word “rotting,” make it clear that this is probably not an edition Yair will want to save in his scrapbook, even if his mug is front and center on the front page.

“The recording disclosed on Hadashot News’ main broadcast Monday night has 50 faces, each one more nauseating and more worrying than the next,” Verter writes, adding that it could actually hurt the prime minister electorally. “Many people who vote for Netanyahu and his Likud party are traditional or conservative, and some are certainly religious. Yet they’re willing to put up with a lot without it denting their loyalty to the party and the leader. We see this both in polls and in election results. Nevertheless, what we heard Monday night surely increased the level of disgust with the prime minister’s family, even among his most diehard fans.”

But in the same paper, Ravit Hecht predicts that the whole affair will turn into a big old nothingburger.

“The behavior depicted on the recordings is still quite acceptable in Israeli society, more so than many behavioral styles that don’t include the degradation and exploitation of other people. Strip clubs, as we’ve learned from numerous colorful reports in the weekend press, are legitimate Israeli entertainment, and many people won’t understand the problem with the way Yair and his friends talk about women,” she writes, noting that the US elected as president a man who speaks just as badly, if not worse, about women.

Hecht also marvels at the Netanyahus’ response, painting themselves as victims and blaming “leftists,” though she says an investigation should be opened into a conflict of interest over the gas deal. But in Yedioth, columnist Sima Kadmon says she’s not sure an investigation based on his drunken ramblings is needed, though plenty of corruption of the type alleged to plague the prime minister was revealed.

“It seems to me we have an idea of what kind of values [the Netanyahus] are teaching: Netanyahu junior also chooses rich friends. He too, like his mom and dad, expects them to pay for his fun. The language he used is not far from that of his mom when she is disciplining her workers. And there’s also the sense that he thinks he has everything coming to him, like them, and it doesn’t matter what the cost is or who pays.”

The paper also has right-wing columnist Shlomo Pyoterkovsky weigh in, though his defense — “who the hell cares that the prime minister’s son is an unsympathetic, spoiled brat who lives it up crazily and does other things we’d rather not know about” — is a mere appetizer to Israel Hayom.

That paper has nary a bad word to say about Yair, unless you count its claim that he was actually wrong about the NIS 20 billion and that the gas deal actually hurt Koby Maimon. The paper skips over the recordings and goes straight into the Netanyahus’ defense, with columnist Amnon Lord calling the whole affair a “planned media terror attack.”

“The point is to create news that is not news. They bring up the gas deal with its associations of corruption, but it’s void of any significance. Everything is just to create an automatic reaction of hate,” he writes. “The only thing to understand from the media terror attack against Netanyahu Jr. is that the war against the prime minister is getting dirtier… It seems the wife, Sara Netanyahu, has stopped yielding much material. The son Yair is identified as an attractive target to cook up some hate. And yesterday we saw the product, processed as if through a refinery.”

Israel Hayom’s defense also includes burying the story on page 11 (though the front page refers to Lord’s column), instead leading off with the news that the Education Ministry will cut holiday breaks for kids up to third grade by 10 days.

The same paper that was so sympathetic to one kid is suddenly callous toward the rest of them, celebrating the extra hours of schooling as “a revolution” (most parents are likely popping champagne over the news as well).

“After years of whining, making special plans and lots of help from grandma and grandpa, it seems parents finally got some real good news yesterday,” the paper writes.

It reports that parents of two kids will get 1,000 fewer hours of time with the pishers, and in a column, Yaara Yeshurun, who led the push for the extra days of school, makes it seem like she spent a lot more time than that to make sure her kids are far, far away from her over the holidays.

“For 10 years we did things, we met, we spent days and hours in Knesset committee, in meetings with policy makers. We lost hours of sleep planning the struggle, sending newsletters, persuading anyone we imagined could be convinced to move an inch. And we did not give up,” she writes.

The excitement is also palpable in Yedioth, which claims “there is not a parent that won’t be happy to hear the news.” But at least the paper also admits that there’s another side and kids might not be jumping for joy.

“I prefer a longer Passover break,” third-grader Guy Mulner is quoted saying. “It’s not fair that I’ll be at school and my sister in eighth grade will be home on break. It’s a good thing I’ll be in fourth grade next year.”

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