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Friday, December 12, 1997 Published at 16:50 GMT



Despatches

Israeli press mauls Mrs Netanyahu
image: [ Sara Netanyahu is the premier's third wife ]
Sara Netanyahu is the premier's third wife

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has responded angrily to a fresh round of media reports about his wife, Sarah. A lengthy article in one of today's Israeli papers alleges that Sarah Netanyahu enjoys perks not normally allowed to the first lady and describes frequent angry outbursts against staff members and even her own husband. It's not the first time Sarah Netanyahu has been criticised in this way. The Prime Minister says the latest allegations have broken all boundaries. Our Middle East correspondent Paul Adams reports from Jerusalem.

Sarah Netanyahu has never been a favourite of the media. The Prime Minister's third wife, a former air-hostess, has been under attack ever since her husband's election victory, 18 months ago.

Her emotional outbursts, usually against members of her personal staff are legendary. According to a detailed expose in today's popular newspaper Yediot Aharanot, an employer at the Prime Minister's house with 30 years' service, found herself under a barrage of shoes, when Sarah Netanyahu didn't like the way they had been cleaned.

The Prime Minister himself was on the receiving end of another tantrum when pop singer Ofra Haza had the termerity to touch him during the taping of a television chat show. These are the juicy details Israelis love to read about and the largely left of centre press love to report.

But other allegations raise more serious issues, according to the article, Sarah Netanyahu has personal secretaries and a chauffeur, paid out of public funds and even runs an office in the Prime Minister's own bureau.

Suggestions that such perks are not in the public interest, and may even be illegal, have left some politicans to demand a parliamentary debate.

The Prime Minister has reacted furiously. He says he and his wife have been exposed to unprecedented defamation, which had reached new levels of malice and wickedness. But this latest over the Netanyahu's may have a silver lining.

A cartoon in another paper said the allegations are unique in Israeli journalism, unique because they make the Prime Minister himself look good.






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