Political Wife Duped by Israeli Press

By Nathan Burstein

Published March 03, 2010, issue of March 12, 2010.

The wife of Israel’s own defense minister has been duped by a man in disguise.

Nili Priel, wife of Ehud Barak, unwittingly opened their home to a stranger who had assumed a fake identity, leading to a pre-Purim flood of publicity. Ari Libsker, a reporter for the Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist, posed as a house-hunting Jewish billionaire from Croatia to gain access to Barak’s residence, a luxury apartment in Tel Aviv. Invited by a real-estate agent to view the apartment, Libsker declined to provide an identity card of his alias, Yaakov Natovitz, claiming concern for his privacy. The writer nevertheless received a guided tour of the apartment from Priel, and had entered the home without undergoing a security check. “I could have gone up to the apartment with a knife, handgun or explosive,” Libsker wrote in an article February 25.

While the security breach dominated much of the news coverage, Priel also earned attention for her comments about the apartment, which the couple hopes to sell for more than 30 million shekels (roughly $8 million). The residence has been a political liability for her husband, a former prime minister and the head of Israel’s Labor Party, especially during the country’s 2009 elections. “There’s still a socialist mentality here,” Priel lamented to Libsker.

The incident may be particularly embarrassing for Barak, himself a former master of disguise. During his days in the military, the former commando once dressed as a woman for a mission in Lebanon, wearing a wig and high heels in a confrontation with the Palestine Liberation Organization.



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