BIBI NETANYAHU SAID one thing and did the opposite. He became used to keeping potentially self-destructive secrets –– and of being ashamed of them. Not just in politics. His personal life is a miserable litany of failed marriages and sexual betrayal.
His first wife was Miriam Weizmann (she was known as Micki), who lived in the next street to the Jerusalem apartment owned by his brother Yoni, where Bibi was based during his military service. By the time he was done in the army, Micki had completed both her own military service and a first degree in chemistry at the Hebrew University. In 1972, they both left for America where she enrolled for a graduate degree at Brandeis, while Bibi was accepted first to Cornell and then switched to MIT so he could be closer to her in Boston. Bibi and Micki married soon after.
By 1978, Miriam was pregnant. Everything seemed perfect. But meanwhile Bibi had struck up a conversation in the university library with a non-Jewish woman from Britain called Fleur Cates. His pregnant wife began to notice his ever-increasing absences from home. One day she discovered a long blond hair on one of his suits and demanded to know whose it was. Micki kicked him out of the house in Boston. In April 1978, she gave birth to the couple’s daughter Noa in Harvard University Hospital. Bibi did not attend the birth, turning up afterwards with a bouquet of flowers.
How would Israeli history have turned out if Bibi had run for election with a non-Jewish woman named Fleur Cates at his side?
His marriage to Micki in ruins, Bibi married Fleur. It didn’t last long. They divorced in 1984. DeltaFourth wonders how Israeli history might have turned out if Bibi had run for election with a non-Jewish woman named Fleur Cates at his side.
In 1991 he married Sara Ben-Artzi. She would become a particular bugbear of the Israeli media. It would be mentioned often in Israeli newspapers that she was an El Al flight attendant when they met. As she describes it, they were going in different directions on a pair of moving walkways in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, and Bibi craned his neck around to check her out as she went past. Some say that on the plane shortly after, he tracked her down. Others insist it was she who left him a note with her phone number. Though she had just graduated and would be a working psychologist soon enough, the flight attendant job is typically used to peg Sara as an intellectual midget hunting for a powerful man in the Business Class compartment. With Sara, Bibi has had two sons: Yair in 1991 and Avner in 1994. Sara has had almost as rough a relationship with the family’s nannies and housekeepers as with the Israeli newspapers. She has been sued by several of the nannies.
In the strangely old-world atmosphere of Israeli media reporting, which generally declines to probe the intimate affairs of the nation’s leaders, the condescending coverage masks the little-mentioned fact that Sara was already pregnant with their first child when they married. “She had a plan. He didn’t have a plan. He’s very clever in some ways and very unpredictable, maybe stupid, in others,” says a former Bibi staffer. “She got pregnant. He didn’t have any serious intention of marrying her. She basically trapped him, and for some reason she was very surprised when another woman trapped him later.”
Sara was already pregnant with their first child when she married Bibi
In 1993, when Sara’s son Yair was just one year old, she received an anonymous phone call from someone claiming to have a video tape showing Bibi in a sexually compromising position with his PR adviser Ruth Bar. Unless he quit the Likud leadership race, the tape would be released to the press. Confronted on his return home, a tearful Bibi fessed up.
But Sara wasn’t Micki. She wasn’t about to give up her hard-won prize. Her husband was within touching distance of real political power. They decided to go on the offensive. Bibi went on Israeli TV to confess that he had cheated on Sara. He was coming clean about it to set the record straight, before the “mafia” types who had made the tape could “blackmail” him. Amazingly, the weepy admission on prime-time television worked. Bibi’s supporters forgave him, and he went on to become party leader. The crisis seemed to be over.
It wasn’t. Bibi’s election as prime minister in 1996 was accompanied by news of his “close” 20-year friendship with a married Italian-American woman, Katherine Price-Mondadori. She described Bibi to Corriera della Sera as a man who “adores women, food and everything that’s bello.”
Philandering is by no means unusual among Zionist leaders. One of the earliest Israeli jokes asked how Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula conducted pillow-talk. The ironic answer: “Long-distance.” Many other names could be substituted with the same effect, including Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, and Golda Meir.
But people who know Bibi say he’s not a skirt chaser. He’s just easy to manipulate and impulsive. Even Sara claimed that Bibi was the real victim of his sexual dalliances. In an interview with Israeli television that was suppressed at the time because of her, ahem, candor, but subsequently leaked out, Sara described Bibi’s mistress Ruth Bar as “a depraved woman. She came on to my husband. You show me one married man who wouldn’t go along.”
He’s not a very rational person. He’s very vulnerable, very sensitive, very closed. He has very few very close friends
Really? The great strategist is a victim of his need for ego-stroking and intimate gratification? An adviser who has worked closely with Bibi tells DeltaFourth that this counter-intuitive portrait rings true to those who have seen him close up. “He’s not a very rational person,” says the adviser. “He’s very vulnerable, very sensitive, very closed as a person. He doesn’t open up easily. He has very few very close friends, and they go back 30, 40 years. He hardly trusts anyone. He doesn’t trust his wife, for sure. He’s very lonely. It makes him very vulnerable.”
Where does that vulnerability originate? The advisor comes to the same conclusion as DeltaFourth. “Whatever Bibi does, he will never succeed in satisfying his father. And now that his father is dead, he still can’t satisfy himself. He can’t experience a long-term victory in any way. He always hears that voice of his father in the background. I think that’s very dominant in his personality. So you have someone who doesn’t build real relationships very easily, someone who has a kind of inferiority complex from an early stage, who always tries to prove himself. There’s a lack of security in his personality. At the time I worked with him he often nearly made silly mistakes, and sometimes when we didn’t hold him back he actually made them.”
During their early years in Boston, Bibi and Micki were the life and soul of the Israeli community there, hosting weekly dinners for Israeli expatriates at their home. Is it just chance that the collapse of his first marriage and the onset of Bibi’s destructive womanizing – the first concrete sign of the emergence of Psychobibi – coincided with the death at Entebbe of the first-born son, his golden brother, Yoni?
From Psychobibi: Who is Israel’s Prime Minister and why does he want to fail? (DeltaFourth) by Matthew Kalman and Matt Rees. Available now as an eBook from Amazon
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