On Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, left for Germany, France and England. As always, El Al won the bid to fly them. The flight attendants were given a page of guidelines about how to comport themselves vis-a-vis the prime minister and his wife. A series of dos and don’ts.
Among the don’ts, one instruction stood out: Under no circumstances are you to address the prime minister directly. Every approach to him is to be made solely through his wife. If the flight attendant wishes to ask Netanyahu what he’d like to drink, whether his passion is for chicken or for beef, or whether to fill his cup with tea or coffee, he or she must direct the question to Sara, sitting next to him, at a distance of a few centimeters.
This anecdote will strike a chord with people knowledgeable about the history of the relations between Bibi and Sara. The two first met in the 1990s on an El Al flight. He was deputy foreign minister in the government of Yitzhak Shamir; she, a stewardess, “blonde with a bob haircut and shy eyes,” as journalist Ben Caspit writes in his recently published biography of Netanyahu (in Hebrew).
For its part, El Al says that it is not its practice to comment on matters related to its passengers, for that reason, there’s no way of determining who decided that the cabin crews are in need of such guidelines.
The guidelines don’t state explicitly that the attendants are prohibited from making eye contact with the Leader, or that they must lower their eyes if, heaven forbid, their gaze crosses. In olden times, mere mortals were forbidden to look directly at the emperor. Violation of the order was liable to result in execution. We’re not there yet; maybe in another term or two in office the protocol will be honed.