Yair Netanyahu Girlfriend Drama Sparks Echoes of British Royal Romance Scandal

For Israel, Dating a Non-Jew Like Marrying Divorcee

Our Royal Scandal: King Edward once abdicated his throne for love. Hopefully it won’t come to that for Yair Netanyahu.
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Our Royal Scandal: King Edward once abdicated his throne for love. Hopefully it won’t come to that for Yair Netanyahu.

By Asher Schechter

Published January 30, 2014.
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(Haaretz) — “Israel is freaking out.” “Yair Netanyahu spits on his grandfather’s grave.” “Bibi’s son is dating a Gentile!”

It’s been quite the week for the Netanyahu family, judging by the flurry of hysterical headlines reacting to reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyu’s son is dating – gasp! – a “shiksa.” The reported love affair between Yair Netanyahu and Norwegian girlfriend Sandra Leikanger is being treated by Israel as the most scandalizing love story since King Edward and Wallis Simpson shamed the British throne.

It all started rather innocently: The prime minister purportedly revealed that his son was dating a (non-Jewish) Norwegian girl in a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart. The story was picked up by Norwegian newspaper Dagen, which put a face and a name to the story: Sandra Leikanger, a 25-year-old student who met the 23-year-old Netanyahu Jr. while studying with him at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.

Then the whole world – the Jewish world, at least – it seems, went berserk. The reason: Leikanger, the potential future spouse of Israel’s Crown Prince (his father is “King Bibi,” after all) is not Jewish. Imagine that! Gevalt!

Netanyahu Sr. is now trying to do damage control, denying the whole thing and claiming Jr. and Sandra are merely classmates. But it’s too late; the damage has already been done.

Indeed, it’s been a long time since the shtetl was so excited. The question we should have been asking – “Is this piece of gossip even newsworthy?” – was quickly pushed aside by people who insisted on making it news at all costs. After all, Netanyahu Jr is the closest Israel has to a crown prince, and “Waity Katie” enthralled Britain for years, so why not us?

It seems everyone has opinions about Jr.’s purported fling. From the right, the last few days have seen a slew of self-appointed Tevyes shouting, “Tradition! Tradition!” Lehava, a right-wing anti-assimilation organization that aims to “save daughters of Israel who were seduced by goys,” was so outraged it sent two letters, one to Netanyahu Sr., one to Jr. himself.

“The implications of your son’s acts, even though he is supposedly a private person, are far-reaching, both for your family and for the State of Israel,” wrote the organization’s chairman, Benzi Gopstein. “This is the son of the prime minister of the Sate of Israel, homeland of the Jewish people. … Your late father, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, is rolling in his grave because of what your son is doing.”

Gopstein was a bit more subtle in his letter to Jr., offering to meet with him and Leikanger “so that we can converse in person, and understand the significance of this matter together.”


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