Opposition parties attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday over two reports relating to bottles in the Prime Minister’s residence.
On Monday, Netanyahu asked the media and his political rivals to “attack my policies in a proper manner...[and] leave my family alone,” after new evidence surfaced in a lawsuit against him and his wife, Sara, filed by former Prime Minister’s Office superintendent Manny Naftali, for alleged abuse by Mrs. Netanyahu.
Within days, reports surfaced that Sara Netanyahu had staff redeem the empty bottles from all drinks consumed in the Prime Minister’s Residence and then pocketed the money, even though the drinks were bought with taxpayer money. The deposits totaled about NIS 1,000 per year, Haaretz reported.
About two years ago, the Netanyahu family returned NIS 4,000 to the state, and neither the attorney-general nor the state comptroller has taken responsibility for looking into what could be criminal activity.
Meanwhile, Channel 2 reported that the Prime Minister’s Residence allegedly spent NIS 100,000 on alcohol in the past two years.
Netanyahu’s spokesman said the residence does not buy any alcohol other than wine costing dozens of shekels per bottle, and it averages out to about one bottle of wine per day, including when they host guests in their home.
“Do you know how much that amounts to per month? NIS 4,200,” Zionist Union co-chairwoman Tzipi Livni said at an event in Rishon Lezion Saturday. “The price of the alcohol Netanyahu drinks in a month is equal to the monthly salary of almost a million workers in Israel.”
Livni pointed out that, as of last November, the National Insurance Institute found that almost a million Israelis earn NIS 4,300-NIS 4,500 per month. The minimum wage is NIS 4,300.
“In the end, citizens need to elect a person not just on how he makes decisions or doesn’t in the Prime Minister’s Office, but also according to his personal behavior,” she asserted.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor), Livni’s co-chairman of the Zionist Union quipped that “with his experience in recycling, [Netanyahu] can be environmental protection minister” in a Zionist Union-led government.
Herzog said that after the election he would invite Netanyahu to join his government, according to agreed-upon guidelines.
“Netanyahu is busy blaming others, throwing the responsibility on past prime ministers and the media, hiding behind endless fear mongering and stories about empty bottles, but we can’t forget – he has been prime minister for six years, and the responsibility for the housing crisis, for starving children and Israel’s difficult situation in the world is on him,” Herzog said.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal- On said Netanyahu was avoiding taking responsibility for his actions as prime minister by hiding behind scandals involving his wife.
“We’re tired of the shameful evasions, and we’re even more tired of the prime minister abandoning his wife and destroying her reputation to avoid the criminal and political implications of his actions,” she said.
Gal-On called for the police to investigate Netanyahu on suspicion of stealing public funds, and if he did so, to remove his candidacy for prime minister.
“The second Netanyahu signed as ‘the Netanyahu family’ on the check in the recycled bottles scandal, he is already deeply implicated in alleged criminal activity,” she posited.
“There is no reason to hide behind claims that people are picking on his wife. It’s not her; it’s him. Yitzhak Rabin took responsibility [when his wife opened an illegal foreign bank account] and went home [in 1977] on a much less serious matter.”
On Friday, Netanyahu responded to the bottle-related attacks, saying there was no limit to the accusations the media are willing to make to bring him down and replace him with Livni and Herzog.
“While we have a security situation in the north, Iran is racing toward a bad nuclear deal that will endanger Israel’s security, the ‘existential’ question of recycling bottles in the Prime Minister’s Office was covered extensively,” he posted on the Web. “This is an old, recycled and overblown story. How did a minor event from a few years ago get giant, negative headlines on the eve of an election?” According to Netanyahu, the answer is simple: “Powerful factors are working in the Israeli media who believe in recycling – not of bottles, but of the unacceptable method of attacking me through biased and distorted slander against my wife in order to bring down the Likud government under my leadership.”
Netanyahu added that the media is focused on “distractions,” because on more significant issues, especially security matters, “the vast majority of the Israeli public supports me and the Likud and our assertive and responsible way.”
The media, the prime minister contended, had not taken into consideration that the Israeli public is smarter than members of the press think