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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“I am sure,” he wrote, “that your girlfriend, who is wise and intelligent, will understand you have to end the relationship as well.”

Others responded with what could only be called panic. “Woe to us, if, God forbid, this is true,” said Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who described the affair as “a big heartache.” Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, ever the stoic, summarized the entire matter as “very unfortunate.”

But the most virulent attack against Jr.’s puppy-love came from Jr.’s own uncle. Haggai Ben-Artzi, Sarah Netanyahu’s estranged brother, made his discontent public, asking Jr. (through reporters), “Have you lost your mind?!”

If Jr. and Sandra get married, Ben Artzi promised, “I’ll walk the streets and tear the hair off my head.” In the meantime, he threatened, he’ll physically ban Jr. from going anywhere near his grandfather’s grave.

That’s the right wing. On the left, the entire thing has been greeted mostly with a sarcastic chuckle and not a few memes.

There are those who mentioned, quite accurately, that even if Jr. and his Scandinavian beloved were to get serious, their love has an expiration date: Given that there are no civil marriages in Israel, and with the Chief Rabbinate being what it is, the two could never get married even if they wanted to. Sandra could convert to Judaism, of course, like Netanyahu Sr.’s second wife, but even that’s no guarantee nowadays.

And for the general public, the whole affair has been met with a lot of gossipy excitement over the exotic new blonde who might someday be “one of our own.” Gossip sites rushed to dig up details about Jr.’s supposed sweetheart, and Jr. himself – all of a sudden – was transformed into the celebrity he was born to become.

It’s the same kind of mix between excitement and outrage that surrounded the affair between supermodel Bar Refaeli and Leonardo DiCaprio. The same kind of foreign-blonde-adoration that made Mandy Rice-Davies – a former stripper and convert, star of a little tidbit of British history known as the Profumo Affair, in which a senior British politician was caught with his pants down – a mythological superstar in 1970s Israel. Israel as a small, provincial country has always had an attraction/repulsion for foreign, glamorous blondes.

And Scandinavian women? Forget about it. Israel has a well-documented fascination with Scandinavian women – you need only consider cult films like the Lemon Popsicle series – that goes back at least 40 years, to the days when young Swedish volunteers would come to the kibbutzim and enthrall everything and everyone.

Nevertheless, the allure of exotic foreign mystique is clearly not enough to quell the detractors. Assimilation is, still, even today, a sensitive subject that touches upon one of the rawest nerves of the Jewish soul. So far Jr. and Sandra seems to have gotten a pass from most of the Israeli public because it doesn’t seem that serious (Boys will be boys, as they say; plus it’s not like he’s their son). But if this – whatever it is or isn’t – starts to look serious, there’ll be a lot more critics. Just because we let girls study in Israel, doesn’t mean they can just snatch up our boys, worried Jewish mothers all over the country will mutter. Puppy love is all well and good, they’ll say, but can’t both puppies be Jewish?

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